Last year, the UN agency leading the world’s HIV/AIDS response established March 1st as Zero Discrimination Day, a day for discussion and action regarding discrimination around the world. Although the agency is of course most focused on discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, the day takes a broader scope towards all people who experience discrimination, be it due to gender, ethnicity, race, class, religion, or any other form of discrimination. As said by Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, “Some of the world’s most challenging problems can be solved simply by eliminating stigma and discrimination … As we collectively strive for a fairer world we can be encouraged by the enthusiasm for achieving zero discrimination.”
Are people born discriminatory? It’s hard to say for sure, but you rarely see children being naturally discriminatory, so perhaps it’s not natural to discriminate, but rather circumstances that drive people to discriminate. The discrimination that’s very close to us at DEPDC/GMS and everything we do is very much couched in ethnic and gender discrimination, much of which originates from disempowerment and poverty. As we’ve talked about often, poverty has a major connection with the objectification and commodification of women and children around the world.
Similarly, the discrimination you find between different groups based on ethnicity, religion, race, and class often radiate from conflicts of interest between them, many of which boil down to competition for resources and the ability to survive. As you’d expect, this is particularly true for people in impoverished environments. Because of this connection, we at DEPDC/GMS focus on economic development for our children and the communities in which they live in order to help create the conditions in which discrimination can be reduced and even eliminated.
In tandem with this, a significant focus of ours is teaching the children about human and child rights, and about the meaning of equality, empowerment and solidarity. Our goal is to ensure that they know that we’re all equal human beings with the same rights and status, regardless of whatever superficial differences seem to divide us. Especially for our young daughters, this is very important, and we’re always proud to say that in this and many other areas they’re excellent students. Our HDS students have helped lead the fight for child and women’s rights in Northern Thailand by marching through the streets of Mae Sai. They take leadership roles throughout the centre, helping to cook for their fellow students and friends, which also teaches them valuable life skills that will enable them to live as independent, self-sufficient adults later in life.
Recently, they helped to build a mushroom plantation for a project spearheaded by a monk from a local temple in Mae Sai. This project has provided mushrooms that’ve been used in the lunch program to help feed our daughters and sons, and sold in local markets to help fund the lunch program as well. Not only did they get to show that they can use their life skills, they used it to help the program that taught them those life skills and help to make is self-sustainable. They don’t know it, but we draw a lot of inspiration from the children’s example, many of whom overcome major obstacles and difficulties every day that few of us will ever have to worry about. It’s an honour to help them become what they have within themselves to be.
This is how we at DEPDC/GMS plan to fight discrimination, and if you’d like to help us pursue this goal we’d love to have you on board. If you’ve ever considered getting involved and volunteering, please don’t hesitate to visit the volunteer information page on our blog and get in touch. We always love having more members in our international family, and your help will go further than you can imagine. Or if you can’t volunteer but feel like you’d like to make a contribution, please visit our GlobalGiving donations page here to pick which of our programs you’d like to contribute to, like our Half Day School program or our lunch program.