TAP PARTICIPANTS SPEAK OUT
The Fashionista and the Freedom Fighter
by Romina Nanagas
TAP Manila Participant
Being a fashionista is a whole lot easier than fighting for human rights. You try being in my blood red 3-inch pumps for one day when you explain that two of your greatest passions are fashion and compassion. A lot of the time it feels as if society can’t possibly fathom that you’re both. Growing up with a help-the-world attitude is difficult. Everyone looks at you with either pity for your naivety or with puzzlement because you care. From the time I was in pre-school and I felt sorry for the crayons that never got used (“Poor little Burnt Sienna…) up until the present when asked why I took up political science (Me: “because it’s wrong that some live that way.” Other Person: “Huh?” Or worse- “So?”) it’s been quite tiring and lonesome to be both.
So you put the starving babies in the back of your mind. You slip into that comfortable middle-class mold of credit-card payments, stilettos and homework. But you can’t pretend for very long to be something you are not. You can’t forget causes dear to your heart and in your blood. You just need to know or be reminded that you are not alone.
And that’s exactly what the WYA training sessions was for me. In that room was a lovely hodgepodge of people from such diverse backgrounds but brought together within the four walls because of a fundamentally uniting reason-human dignity. I felt as if finally, after all these years, I’ve found a group of wonderfully contrasting people understanding what all children know before growing up: you care because you are.
Somewhere between stuffing my mouth with a pastry and abusing the microphone in an impassioned retort, I am fascinated as I look around the room. The university student representing China couldn’t have been more different from the lawyer with the horn-rimmed glasses but in that room they were debating because an organization finally hit the point of something essential in all human beings- dignity and rights. I was sharp as the delegate of Uganda (the acting Chair described me as pouncing) but deep inside, I was happy. I was happy to know I didn’t have to be a mud-covered activist or a Mother Teresa to fight for human rights. Happy that you didn’t have to be a certain religion or race or any stereotype to want to do something. And happy too that someone else out there had the courage not to listen when called naïve because she believed the youth could make a difference and had even more courage to find others like herself.
At one point during the mock-negotiations I was so immersed into being the delegate of Uganda that I muttered to Anna on my way to the bathroom “Aaack! It’s getting to me!” and I ask myself “why am I doing this again?”. The answer was so simple it came to me faster than I could stuff my face with another pastry. Because this is something you’ve wanted to do your whole life. Because even if it’s just pretend, it’s a symbol of a reality. Because, finally you aren’t alone in believing humanity still has hope. Because, after all these years, it’s okay to critically asses the latest fashion trend and to critically asses the latest developments in the Kyoto Protocol. It doesn’t make you a freak to like both. In fact, having all sorts of people fighting for human dignity is central to the fight-because this kind of diversity simply puts more emphasis on what everyone should be aware of. Human rights and the dignity of the human person is or should be everyone’s interest.
by Praew Sorasuchart
TAP Bangkok Participant
When I signed up for the Bangkok Training session, I had no idea what to expect from it. I had never heard of the organisation before but I was willing to keep my mind open, and I wanted to see what this youth group had managed to achieve – and how they had done it. Once I found out more about WYA, I realised that they were really making a difference in the world and I wanted to be a part of that; I’ve always been interested in international relations and politics, and this presented a great chance for me to get involved. I had always thought you had to be “old” to actually get anything done – apparently (and thankfully), that’s not the case anymore.
The experience of the weekend, however, made me more than just content that I’d signed up; not only did I learn more about the way things work in the “real world” but I also had an amazing time. It was incredible to hear what had been achieved in such a small amount of time by an organisation started by someone with a dream – someone a little like all of us there.
My favourite part of the weekend, however, just had to be the negotiations exercise. From it, I learnt one very important thing: the reason why the UN never gets anything done. Seriously though, I learnt how hard it is for the international community to agree on even one little thing – like whether a word says in the draft or not – and that every little agreement takes so much time to come to (and that’s the reason why it’s always so celebrated even if very little has been done). It’s made me have second thoughts about going into that line of work! I don’t envy the people that have to do it at all – but it’s increase my respect for them all a lot.
The exercise also taught me to see things from a different point of view since we weren’t always arguing and trying to get what we thought was right; it forced me to be more open-minded and to try to see where any small concession could be made – and it certainly taught me patience!
By the end, however, it showed me why organisations such as the WYA are so important. Every country is always aiming to push their policy through and everyone has some sort of interest they want to gain. The delegates don’t really think about what is good for the world or what it is that the people truly need. Instead, they’re all thinking about how their country and their government can gain the most. Inevitably, this leads to the larger, richer countries having far more power than the smaller, more dependant ones, eliminating the whole point of the “one country one vote system” of the General Assembly – and leaving the developing world’s agenda as background noise. Independent, non-governmental organisations like the WYA provide the only real voice to the people in need and are the only ones looking at the big picture.
The WYA’s focus on human dignity and the human self simply makes more sense than political means and ends. Without some sense of dignity and without knowing who we are, we’re not really human at all.
The weekend also gave me a chance to meet people in Thailand who were like me or who, at least, had the same goals as me, who wanted the same things – who wanted to make a difference in the world. It let me see a whole new side to some of the friends I already know and let me make more friends, more connections with people from other Universities. It was brilliant because the people were brilliant: fun, easy-going and incredibly friendly – even if the discussions often got somewhat heated, we were able to remain friends after (which is definitely a good thing)!
Most of all, the whole thing reminded me that I wasn’t alone. It isn’t just me against the world when it comes to wanting to see change, wanting to see problems actually being solved, trying to give a voice to those who didn’t have one. Alone, we would be far too small and insignificant; we couldn’t get anything done. But when we stand together – that’s when changes can finally be made.
I want to thank WYA for giving me the chance to gain that and more – to thank them, simply, for giving all of us a chance to do something great.