The rights in our Constitution have provided millions with hope for a more equal country based on dignity and freedom. We have the right of access to basic education; healthcare; water etc. and section 34 of our Constitution guarantees the rights of access to justice. The context we work in reinforces a perception that these are “paper rights” (worth no more than the paper they are written on). There is great need for skilled resources to be poured into our poorest communities. Instead the provision of skilled services is fragmented and sporadic at best.
Currently, the public interest lawyers are too removed from the challenges, disasters and problems; there is insufficient knowledge of the landscape as well as too few strong partnerships and relationships with communities.
In contrast, the Equality Collective is embedded, based in Nqileni Village in a remote rural part of the Eastern Cape in the Mbhashe Municipality. We are a community-centred law project committed to using law and advocacy for social and political advancement. We see our role as purposefully organising and supporting the programme of grassroots movements with the infrastructure for collective participation and action in the struggle against inequality and poverty. We understand that lasting change can only be achieved through vibrant, strong and organised communities and our job is to support and amplify that work.
Our vision for change requires meeting the immediate needs of community members together with building the infrastructure for grassroots power to make far reaching and profound structural change.
Thriving rural communities collectively participating in a just and caring society.
We are innovative in the advancement of access to justice; build the capacity and infrastructure for collective participation; and share research and learning to create a more just and caring society.
Our work centres our rural communities and their lived struggles. It prioritises the needs of marginalised communities, especially women and children.
Our Focus Areas
Our Track Record
The work of the Equality Collective is not new. It builds off of work already started by the Bulungula Incubator.
Walk-in legal services
The admin staff at Bulungula provide paralegal services. There is a walk-in clinic every Tuesdays with issues relating to citizenship, social assistance and former miner’s accessing pension funds.
Human rights workshops
Multiple human rights workshops have been provided to the community over the years. In 2017, we conducted a 4-day basic human rights and paralegal workshop. We hosted 25 participants from 9 different organisations all along the Wild Coast. As a result of just one workshop, two more organisations provide walk-in paralegal services to their communities supported by the Equality Collective.
Advocating for emergency healthcare services
“No one may be refused emergency medical treatment” – a clear, bold demand nestled in section 27 of our Constitution, a sound and unambiguous message to government and to private providers of health care. The Constitution guides our understanding of what we can expect and what we can demand, and this section is supposed to “provide reassurance to all members of society that emergency departments will be available to deal with the unforeseeable catastrophes that could befall any person, anywhere and at any time”.
In 2015, Mr MN who has lived in Xhora Mouth for 70 years explained to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that he has never seen or heard of an ambulance in the area. For the first 20 years of democracy, section 27(3) of the Constitution – the right that no one may be refused emergency medical treatment – has been a lie to the people of the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area in the Eastern Cape.
In October 2016, an ambulance was placed for the first time in Nqileni Village in the Eastern Cape to serve the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area. How it got here, is a story of collaboration between the community and the Bulungula Incubator (BI) with civil society, SECTION27 in particular, and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and one of collaboration, confrontation and eventual partnership with the government.
Celebrated as a win - the ambulance presence remains sporadic and often disappears. Fighting to improve access to emergency health care services continues today. More information about the ambulance story can be accessed here: Bulangula incubator
Advocating for health clinic
The right of access to health care remains unrealised for members of the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area. For one of the poorest areas in the country – where the need is great – the nearest clinic, if you are healthy, is a 2.5 hour walk away (one way) and includes crossing a river and climbing significant hills!
The community has been advocating for a clinic for as long as they have been advocating for an ambulance. This year is the first time that there are promising signs that the Department will support a clinic outpost in Nqileni Village *WATCH THIS SPACE
Advocating for a community radio
In 2017 Mzuzile from the Bulungula Incubator hit the airwaves running a very small scale community radio with volunteers from our villages. Unfortunately, we had not secured a license yet and thus were shut down by ICASA. Quickly trying to rectify the issue and obtain the correct license, we realised that there was a moratorium on issuing new community licenses that had been in place since 2015. A major violation on the rights of freedom of expression and speech for our communities. We have been fighting that ICASA bureaucracy for 2 years, in 2019 the moratorium was lifted and in Jan 2020 we were issued with our community license.
Qunu Advice Office
Through-out 2019, the Equality Collective worked closely with the Qunu Advice Office travelling their once a month to work on a late-birth registration project with the Children’s Institute and the LRC. We hope to still remain close to that work this year.
Wild Coast Forum
There are about 15 organisations represented in a loose forum called the Wild Coast Forum. We have provided ad-hoc legal advice to various organisations in this Forum since starting at the Bulungula Incubator.
In 2019, We provided legal advice to our Chief on the impact of school rationalisation in our communities as well as assisted our local school with wayward contractors. This work remains ongoing.