Two Life Lessons From A Dignity Defender

ImageDignity changes everything. Working in a non-government organization has definitely re-aligned my views and reaffirmed my life principles. This made me see how fighting in advocacy is never easy as it may often test your understanding and value of the human person. Looking back in 2012, I realized there are two life lessons that I wish to share and embrace for 2013.

Lesson number 1: Be diplomatic and never antagonistic!

The Reproductive Health Bill (now a law) was one of the major issues that shook the Philippines in 2012. Many have called this a divisive measure as debates and arguments brought tension between political allies, tested friendships and to a certain extent, family ties.  Access to information is power and for most people that means monitoring social media.

As one of the fastest ways to reach a greater audience, images and language used in social media have a vital role in influencing decisions as they appeal to young people’s emotions. Hearts are won and lost because of the words we use in communicating our positions.  As we remain in the mission of promoting dignity, we should learn how to control our emotions, never attacking a person when educating others and respecting others’ views. For no matter what differences people have, we remain united in our clamour for change and improvement in our community. No matter how difficult  it would be, strive to stay positive and diplomatic because behind each Twitter account or Facebook status is a messenger with dignity, who should never be antagonized or violated as reconciliation may be a far reaching goal if things don’t go the way you want to.

Lesson number 2: Think global and act local!

There is no one solution to development concerns. However, we do not have to look far for answers as nations across the globe have provided us with great clues to help us start and move forward. An example would be addressing the issue of education.

In the many school visits we have done within the region, I’ve seen how young people continue to dream big and work hard for success.  Filipinos have been able to make a mark in industries abroad due to the skills and competitive characteristics they present all because of investing in good learning. However, the complex problem on access to education remains.

Many rural areas in the Philippines face issues in infrastructure like having no access to roads to get to schools or even shortages of classrooms at the primary levels. Access to monetary funding to keep students in school continues to be an immediate concern. Note that a huge part of our population is still engaged in low-income agricultural sector.  A low income may lead to a lower capacity of spending for education purposes. These are issues that have been addressed by other countries and even scholars have written about it. What we should strive to do is find a way to localize and make solutions uniquely our own.

Government must provide proper budget spending on educational infrastructure, scholarships, and agricultural technologies. We should empower parents in exploring other opportunities for income as well as recognize the importance of investing in further education and skills training. Young people, on the other hand, can encourage their fellow youth to maximize their avenues of learning. For when the youth are given a good academic foundation, they are able to explore greater employment opportunities and realize their potential. They are able to make the world their playground.

Both lessons evolve around having better relationships. Whatever “happiness project” or resolution we try to come up with this year, it will reflect the values we embrace and the importance we put into our social bonds. One must learn to look back from the past and embrace the future with high hopes. 2013 will be a great year if we choose and work towards becoming dignity defenders!

Christine Violago is the regional director of World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific.