A few months ago a friend from Spain came to Toronto and told me about WYA. I checked out the website and really liked what I saw; I knew this NGO had something special and that I was interested in getting involved. Fast forward a couple of months and I was on a bus to New York, to attend the 2013 Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC) hosted by WYA North America. I could not have made a better decision. The ELC was the perfect chance to meet great people with shared ideas and values who are willing to work to build a better society. Being able to listen to the knowledgeable speakers and exchange ideas with them and everybody at the WYA headquarters was a very enriching experience.
The first talk was given by Anna Halpine on the importance of realising that people are subjects and not mere objects. She was very clear in stressing that the recognition of the intrinsic dignity in every human person is what allows us to recognize others as subjects and not commodities. Everyone has a purpose in life, however, the way to achieve that purpose is not at the expense of others but through others. Everyone is an essential part of our existence, or, co-existence, if you will. Listening to the founder of WYA speak about this core idea made me think of all the good that can be done when one is truly convinced of the great value of people.
Other speakers, Jean Kilbourne and Reggie Littlejohn showed how this commodification of people has degraded women in different ways. Kilbourne explained how much of the publicity has come to degrade women portraying her as a sexual object and Littlejohn talked about the terrible cases of gendercide that take place every day around the World. The final panel discussed and agreed that the way of changing a culture where we view others as commodities, in small, medium and large ways, is to go back to the core idea of worth, spoken by Anna at the beginning of the conference. In this respect it became clearer to me that men play an important role in reverting this objectification of women: a true man is one who respects and values women in all her being not merely reducing beauty to the physical aspect.
All these talks and discussions gave me a lot of material to think about and also motivated in me-and the rest of the attendees-to find ways to promote the dignity of the person as the foundation for every just and good society. I came to the conclusion that getting involved with WYA is a great way to actively contribute to the building of a better world. Fast forward to the present and I am now back in Toronto working to start a new charter at my University and thus helping to dismantle a culture of commodification.
By Abraham Martinez, WYA Member, North America