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Veganism is not about… (2)

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This is second of the two-part blog post I wrote after the Vision: Vegan World Learning Call: Veganism 101 that I did on January 4, 2019, via Zoom. 

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Veganism is not about… (1)

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This is an expansion of a small part of the 1st Vision: Vegan World Learning Call: Veganism 101 I did today. I sincerely apologize to those who were not able to make it because of technical difficulties. I did not receive any notifications until after the call ended. And I am still receiving notifications to join the meeting until now. Actually, the learning call went really well and even extended a little beyond 5:30 Philippine time. 

That first learning call was simply an introduction, an overview for newbies and the vegan-curious. There will be many other topics to explore, and I am hoping to conduct these calls every other month and will be inviting guest speakers to share their line of expertise related to veganism. Looking forward to doing the next one in March 2020 and seeing you there!

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My vegan journey so far

Vegan flag

With the Vegan Flag at high noon in Manila, October 26, 2019, just before the second Official Animal Rights March.

As you may have known, I have been vegan since September 21, 2015. Three of those four years I have been living and working in Cambodia while attending major activism events in the Philippines. I was the climate speaker at the very first VegFest Pilipinas in 2016, speaker at the very first National Animal Rights Day in the Philippines in 2018, and also a speaker at the second Official Animal Rights March in the Philippines in October this year.

Earlier on, I even did an online petition to make vegan food accessible in the Philippines which I called #Right2VeganFood. I also joined Save Vigils and Cube of Truths whenever I was in the Philippines. In this blog, I wrote a lot of vegan posts such as when I wrote about how I realized I love animals more than people. I collaborated with another vegan to do the Vegan Philippines flogo, based on the international vegan flag.

Even though I consider myself an animal rights activist, I totally fall short in my engagements in activism in Cambodia. I live in a city and country with very little opportunity to do vegan activism. I did flyering in the province of Mondulkiri before and did a giant chalk art in my own yard for those walking by to see. I have met with vegans and supported in my little way a little restaurant that has now closed.

VVW green

Vegan for the animals, first and foremost. But so many benefits for myself, in terms of my health and happiness, and the Mother Earth as well, from whom I owe everything.

Currently, my initiatives are online. I set up the facebook page Vision Vegan World, the group Vision Vegan Cambodia, and Vegan Philippines Singles. I am also an admin of Vegan Philippines. I have donated to vegan events and activists, but of course, as a social development worker, I could only give so much.

I want to give my best but I do hold a full-time job and do other projects on the side as well, contrary to the popular belief that vegan activists are bums. But if you feel strongly for animal liberation much as I do, you would know that these initiatives are not enough. So I continue to rack my brain to come up with ways on how I could help in the animal liberation movement.

My friend and kumpare Jerry Gracio once called me “lagalag” or wanderer. I guess I am a bit like that. But as a communicator, I have planted my roots in the worldwide web. So I thought it would be perfect to use the internet as a platform to raise awareness on veganism and animal rights.

In November 2019, I did a Learning Call for United Edge on the climate emergency, the call was attended by more than 30 participants from 13 countries. Zoom provided an online platform to share my powerpoint presentation and interact with the participants. My talk was well-received. That gave me an idea to do my aware-raising campaign through a Learning Call.

Initiatives like this entail some costs and take a bit of time to take traction. I have done many initiatives before and there are those that didn’t fly. What I realized in my journey is that I am only a planter of seeds, and I should focus more on how I put myself in the initiative, rather than the immediate and visible results. I just have to do what I’m passionate about, and the universe will sort out everything else.

VVW Learning Call

To know more about the event, please visit the Facebook event page here.

But I am willing to explore where this initiative will take me. I have a lot of ideas for later but also would like to seize the opportunity to engage the vegan-curious who might want to make the shift in the new year. So in only five days before the event itself, I organized the 1st Vision: Vegan World Learning Call on January 4, 2020, at 4:00 pm Philippine Time (UTC+8) Would you like to join me? Here is the Learning Call link. Looking forward to seeing you there!

I really intended to have a deep reflection on my life this New Year. But then I have zeroed in on my vegan journey and it just goes to show how being an animal rights activist is such a huge part of my life. I hope to do more in the coming months and years, in my own little capacity, planting seeds as I go along this path. I hope to meet you along the way. #src


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The power of a story

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Last month, I attended the Contextual Analysis Workshop in Sihanoukville, organized by United Nations in Cambodia and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.  It aimed to look at the socio-economic and political issues in the province of Preah Sihanouk, the country in general, as well as regional and international issues affecting Cambodia.

We were given a story about the Alligator River. For you who have heard of the story and processed it, you would know where this post is going, but bear with me. For those who haven’t heard of it, this is the story.

So we were asked to answer the matrix by rating the characters based on who is the best to the worst character in column A. Column B had to be the answer of the seatmate. After that we were asked to talk to our seatmate and compare our answers and negotiate and put, on the final column what we agreed on. After that we were asked to process our answers by answering a few questions. The main question was: “can we really be neutral?” How did you understand the story? What were the questions on your mind? What were the blind spots? What were your assumptions? How do these assumptions influence your judgement?

As soon as these questions started to be asked, the story suddenly became more complicated that it seemed. Was Abigail a victim or harasser? Is Gregory a bad guy at all? Was Vana neutral or did they take a stand? Was Slug justified with what he did?

I personally thought that for stories like this, there are no straight answers. There are so many blind spots and the missing information is supplied by our own point of view, our programming and default answers.

After the discussion,  the story didn’t seem so straightforward after all. Although stories may appear flat, it could be as layered as the number of people reading it. It matters what the lens of the readers are in reading a certain story. What does multiple point of views bring into the picture, and how do they lead to insight?

In this example we can see the power of a story. A story could lead or mislead. A story could clarify or muddle. A story could inspire or provoke. A story could perpetuate the hegemony, or help emerge a new understanding, a new way of seeing.

So the other day, I had fun on Facebook posting this.

in my great

. I was having so much fun about it but I didn’t feel my fb fam were understanding about it. Well, I’m not actually the kind of person who would brag about my great and unmatched wisdom. But then like everyone on the net I do sometimes fall prey to the temptation of a humble brag. Still, I was wondering what people were making of it, if it simply was a joke or what? Here is actually the context of it. One morning I woke to it on twittee. as tempted to post that, and I did so as a reply to one of the comments. But I did feel it kind of spoiled the fun I was having. Hasan Minaj never explained his jokes. You would have to be smart and well-informed enough to enjoy them. And it’s just “sorry, not sorry” to those who weren’t able to get it. That’s what connects the story teller to the listeners, if there is something common to them and highlighted in such a way that they “get” it, the story, or joke for that matter. It is how something reveals a meaning to the listeners or readers. It is what they take home from it.

Then a few days later, I posted this tiny vignette.

she he

There were only a few comments and reactions. But for me they are priceless, and so revealing. Those people who knew me personally, or were hopeless romantics, those who value grammar, or are more in tune with animals, each of them had their own interpretation, thus different reactions.

So what is the story about? Is it about two lovers professing love while baring each other’s heart out? Is it a man purposely demeaning children by comparing them to dogs? He must be non-vegan then! Or is it about a man who loves his dogs like his own children that he had to point out the fact? In that case, he is pre-vegan! Or is it a fable about a female goat and a male dog talking about their offsprings? What do you think?

A good story, no matter how terse, is never flat. It has layers and nuances and movement and message.

So what is the story really about? Have you made your guess? Actually, I’m not telling you. At this point you already know what you need to know. And that is exactly the point I want to drive at. A story could be or mean anything. It’s what you, as story teller or reader, make of it that matters. #SRC


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Investing in Women and Girls is Investing in the World

Last year, estimates show that there are 100 women for every 101 men. Women then comprise roughly half of the world’s population. However, globally, compared to men, women suffer more and multiple challenges including socio-cultural marginalization, gender income disparity, and lack of voice and agency. How is it that we are not considering it a global emergency that women and girls are not receiving the support they need to thrive and achieve their full potential? We are talking about almost half the population of the world.

 

A glimpse at the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HDI) of 2018 shows that in most low income economies women have lower HDI than men, which means that women are less likely to achieve their full potential because of their education and health, or lack thereof.

 

What exactly do women and girls, especially in lower income countries go through? In many cases, women are culturally excluded from having gainful employment. There are also some sector-specific regulations that keep women from certain kinds of jobs such as some manufacturing, mining, and construction. While 75% of men above 15 years old are employed globally, only 49% of women are.

 

Women are also over-represented in the informal sector. Informality is a double jeopardy for women. Aside from lacking opportunities in job market mobility for being low-skilled, women and girls receive lower incomes than men for the same amount of work. There is a deeply entrenched gender income disparity among men and women for which women are always at the losing end. Women and girls do unpaid work at home and community, and thus more often excluded from social protection measures often attached to formal work.

 

These already grave challenges will be compounded with the disruptions being caused by globalization and the changing nature of work. Retraining and re-skilling are only two of the solutions being offered to buffer the impact to lower-skill workers for their mobility in the rapidly transforming job market. However, more girls than boys are still not able to attend school. Or if they do, they attend less number of years than boys. And if girls drop out of school, there are higher chances of them getting married and/or having children before they are 18, which almost automatically excludes them from gainful employment or ties them to informal or unpaid work.

 

But given the cultural roles of women as carers at home and at work, the low level of social protection they receive cascade to their children, family, community, and country. The more women are excluded from social assistance and social insurance, the deeper the impact to the health and education of their children, perpetuating a cycle of marginalization and poverty. This also holds true for women’s education. The less years women attend school, the less they are able to access formal work, thus automatically excluding them from maternity benefits which contributes in the critical development phase in the first 1000 days of a child through proper care during pre and postnatal periods, more time to care for children, possibly even breastfeeding and other stimulation provided in the early years of a child.

Young mothers in Cambodia given information during the World Breastfeeding Week. Photo courtesy of Let Us Create Futures- Cambodia.

What does the world lose when women lose? Women contribute only 38% of human capital wealth globally. In lower income economies, they contribute a third, or even less. Assuming women would earn as much as men, the loss of human capital wealth due to gender inequality is a staggering 160.2 Trillion which is twice the global GDP.

 

By empowering women, raising their economic participation, and providing them the same income as men receive, the world gains by increasing human capital wealth by 21.7 percent globally, and total wealth by 14.0 percent with gender equality in earnings.

 

An additional year that women attend school gives them more access to information, services and resources from pregnancy to childbirth which positively affects how they raise their children. The more educated mothers are, the less stunting of their children, in turn giving children a fighting chance to escape the poverty that their parents experienced.

 

Providing women social assistance have proven helpful in improving education and health of their children. Initiatives such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI), an unconditional cash assistance provided regardless of employment status will ensure that women of low education and skills, and even women in unpaid domestic work will have access to critical support that they are often excluded from.

Typhoon Haiyan survivor in Ajuy, Philippines supported with cash transfer and entrepreneurial support proudly shows off her group saving book. Photo courtesy of PRC-BRC Haiyan Recovery Project

The World Development Report says that building human capital is a project for the world. Half of this project is investing in women and girls, and allowing them the opportunity to increase the returns not only for themselves, but for the society and economy as well.