I first learned about the situation in Burma/Myanmar more than ten years ago, when I was stopped by a student activist from the Free Burma Coalition (now the US Campaign for Burma). Since that first, fateful introduction, I’ve spent thousands of hours reading, writing, interviewing, photographing and exploring the deep complexities of the country, its peoples and its impact on the world. From covering the role of technology in the Saffron uprising for MobileActive, publishing a chapter called Burma, A Modern Anomaly for ‘Mobile Technologies for Conflict Management’ to my recent article on the incredible victories of the Burmese BarCamp community, I have learned so very much from the many Burmese people within and outside of the country I have met over the years.
I continue to learn from one Burmese person in particular, although I have never her in person. I first read Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom from Fear shortly after I first learned of the situation in Burma. At the time the Nobel Peace Prize winner & rightful winner of the 1990 National Elections was under house arrest, a state she has been in for most of the past 10 years. It is astonishing to consider just how many changes have occurred since then … even a year ago, it would have been astonishing to think that Aung San Suu Kyi, known as the Lady, would be running for parliament, or have given the keynote speech at BarCamp Yangon.
I recently came across this video of the Lady speaking on the relationship between empowerment and human dignity. Both concepts can seem vague and difficult to define at times … because the audio was slightly difficult to discern, I transcribed her words.
Power is something that comes from within … for you to achieve that kind of power from within, you need to believe in your own dignity as a human being. If you have not upheld that dignity, you will not have the clear conscience that will enable you to feel empowered. So I think the basic connection between dignity and empowerment is the human connection. Are you a dignified human being? Have you lived up to your human dignity? And if you feel you have dignity, you naturally feel strong, because you’re confident in what you have done & what you stand for. And that empowers you.
… Human dignity is at the foundation of human rights. In the preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is talk about the essential need to recognize everybody’s dignity as a human being.