2016 Political Management Training graduation showcases young progressive leaders
Seventeen young progressives from across Southeast Asia graduated from the Network of Social Democracy in Asia’s (SocDem Asia) political management training. The training program brought together participants come different progressive parties and organizations in the region with the goal of preparing promising young leaders in taking on future roles in their respective organizations. In fact all of the participants are active participants of current democratic movements in their respective countries such as the clean government Bersih movement in Malaysia and the youth movement in Thailand. It is worth taking note that the batch (“Stand by Oh”) chose to name themselves after one of their fellow participant who was detained by military authorities in Thailand (he has since been released) as a sign of solidarity with other progressives in the region.
The two-part training program itself featured distinguished experts in the academe, social movements, media, and politics as lecturers. The program itself focused on important topics such as skills that progressives should use in political campaigns such as negotiation and communication. Ideology was also discussed during the training with more in-depth discussion on topics such as social democracy, comparative ideology, and feminism. Current and pressing issues such as climate change, regional trade deals, and migration, among others also spurred lively exchanges and informative exchanges between and among the participants and lecturers.
The graduation ceremonies itself, while brief, also served to end the program in a high note with no less than Philippine Commission on Human Rights’ Chairperson Chito Gascon as their commencement speaker. Gascon highlighted the task for the graduates to defend human rights especially in a time when rights are under threat in the region. The batch president, Nalina Nair, from Malaysia also gave a short message to her fellow graduates about continuing their struggle in their respective countries. As a symbol of their commitment to fighting for democracy, human rights and progressive values, the graduates were handed out traditional “tubaw” or kerchief which is worn by Filipino peasants to shield their heads from the heat of the sun or wipe their sweat. It has also become a symbol associated with Filipino activists and worn during protest actions either around the head or around the neck. In a way, this piece of clothing will serve as a reminded for the graduates of their responsibilities as progressives to fight for the interests of the marginalized and also of their roles as young leaders in their organizations.