Working towards Solidarity, not Slavery

1What does it mean to be truly human? Is it solely based on the physical or are our identities as human beings reflective of our capacity to feel immensely and to think critically?

As part of my internship program with WYA, I attended a conference last June 10, 2016 on “Fighting Slavery: Is There a Role for International Criminal Justice?” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The conference tackled the reality that is modern slavery as the exploitation of human beings for personal gain. More than 35 million people are affected and involved in this inhumane treatment which is why the conference is pushing for the eradication of modern slavery in all its forms and manifestation by strengthening legal norms, supporting those who protect human rights, finding scalable solutions and educating people.

Salvatore Zappala, who was one of the panelists, said, “We need to protect those who are vulnerable.”

I had immense feelings towards the topic because it is one that is evident in my own country, the Philippines. As I sat amongst people inside the conference room and drowned in echoes and thoughts, I knew that every second meant that a migrant is being threatened and forced in domestic work, a nine-year old girl is being forced into prostitution, a little boy who hasn’t eaten for days is tasked to carry heavy weights on his back, a little girl is being forced to get married and children are kidnapped and used as soldiers.

2Behind the statistics are real people with real stories. These individuals are objectified and are not seen as human beings that take part and contribute to the totality of our common humanity. A flawed understanding of the human person is what generated this terrible scourge and that is why these individuals are searching for a voice. WYA is that voice.

WYA believes that each person has intrinsic worth no matter the circumstances and deserves to grow in an environment which is favorable to integral human development.

With this, I immediately remembered two of the readings from WYA’s Certified Training Program (CTP): Mahatma Gandhi’s Speech at Tanjore wherein he mentions that it is unjust for any person to claim superiority over a fellow-being and Martin Buber’s I and Thou which emphasizes relation as a form of reciprocity and that mutual subjectivity should be present. This kind of understanding of the human person is supported by Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Being a part of the World Youth Alliance, I have come the realization that the answer to the question, whose implications explore the depths of the nature of humanity, was something that is often overlooked.

Being truly human means being human for others. This entails seeing the human person as a being with intrinsic and inviolable dignity that must be treated with respect. The human person is not an object that can be used or discarded at will but is a subject that is capable of creating an impact on society. At the end of the day, what makes us truly human is the capacity to recognize the value that we have in ourselves as the same value that should be seen in other people.

3WYA not only expanded and deepened my understanding about the human person but it also gave me the opportunity to grow in an environment with people who have the same drive and passion as I do when it comes to promoting and defending human dignity.

WYA taught me that we all have a global responsibility and that we must work in solidarity to protect and defend those who are considered as the most vulnerable and the voiceless. What astounds me the most is that WYA is made up of young individuals all around the world who are working in solidarity to advocate that human dignity grants human rights and that it needs to be recognized and respected.

Being alive means living for others. That is why through my involvement with the work of the World Youth Alliance; I can say that I have lived.

Written by Ana Mariela Gonzales, a current intern at the WYA Headquarters in New York from the Philippines.