In May, I travelled to South Africa for 10 days to explore human rights practices of businesses, governments, and entrepreneurs. On the morning of May 7th, myself, 3 faculty, and 21 peers started our 27 hours of travel to Johannesburg. As this was my first time out of the country, it was exhausting, but also new and exciting!
Prior to this trip, I spent 8 weeks learning about South Africa’s history, primary industries, and culture. In discussing human rights cases and reading a variety of regulations, I gained a whole new perspective on what it means to practice business sustainably and with the community in mind. I felt lucky to take this Human Rights and Business course at the same time that I took an African Feminisms and Cultures class.
In my 10 days in South Africa, I visited Union Buildings in Pretoria, craft markets, the Apartheid Museum, and many businesses of various sizes and sectors. One of the most impactful moments for me was our experience at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. I was immediately struck by how much care and precision was put into the architecture. As we entered the building, we were told that each line of writing on the front of the building was in one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Every single detail of the building had significance and supported South Africa’s ultimate goal that our guide described as “building the future out of the difficulties of the past.” I appreciated the way that in South Africa, an effort is made to not only recognize history, but to use it as a tool to encourage progress and promote social change. Since I arrived back to Bloomington, I have been writing about the people I met in South Africa, questions I have about the role of businesses and the government in regulating human rights, my identity and experience as a woman of color to name just a few. I was humbled and challenged on this trip and feel very grateful to have the opportunity to travel with such an incredible group of people.