What is Social Justice?
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Why Social Justice is important
Much has been achieved in the two decades of our hard-won democracy. The South African government allocates a high percentage of our GDP to health, education, housing and welfare. Yet, the poverty and inequality gap is wider than ever, and our democracy is under threat from:
- Widespread corruption;
- Poor management and a lack of accountability;
- Concerns around the independence of the judiciary;
- Poor service delivery;
- Increasing popular protests.
An engaged and active civil society, spearheaded by social justice organisations, is crucial. Ultimately it is these social justice projects that reduce levels of inequality, improve service delivery and ensure that poor communities are afforded the dignity the Constitution envisions.
History and evolution of Social Justice
The term ‘social justice’ was coined by Luigi Taparelli (a Jesuit priest) in 1840. Fifty years later, Pope Leo XIII defended the working class, and by 1900 the cause had been taken up by the Catholic Church in their campaign for a ‘living wage’ to ensure dignity for all workers.
By the 1960s the term took on a broader political tone, becoming associated with civil rights for black people and gender rights for women.
In South Africa, social justice was reflected in the anti-apartheid movement, which not only called for the abolition of racial discrimination, but also for the promotion of rights for women, workers and other vulnerable people.
Today, social justice projects in South Africa concern themselves with economic justice, public participation and socio-economic rights, accountability and improved access to services in a range of different sectors.