Acceptance Speech by Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio

Acceptance Speech by Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, MD, PhD for the  Bayi Citation for the lifetime promotion and defense women’s and people’s rights, and vigilance for genuine democracy (April 30, 2009). Dr. Estrada-Claudio is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.
I am deeply grateful to the Barangay-Bayan Governance Consortium (BBGC) and the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG) for this citation. I also wish to thank the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and One World Action for their support of the BBGC and the IPG in this and other endeavors.

It was difficult to think about and write my acceptance speech. I do not know how to say that I  think my award is less about me and more about the people I work with, while at the same time say that I am honored to be a member of a select group of Bayi awardees whose individual achievements are impressive.  I am feeling deeply validated and at the same time,  feeling like a fraud for getting an award when I was simply doing my duty and having fun while I was at it.

Nonetheless, I believe that awards are given  to call attention to persons and their work so that others may be inspired.So let me try to raise the stakes by talking to you not just about the people I work with,  but also about the happiness that comes with the work. In other words, working with the oppressed in poor communities is not just noble work, it is also as the young say, pretty cool.

Where I work,  there are many people who do not ask for recognition for doing their duty to their community and country. They expect no praise for coming to work on time, treating the public with courtesy and accounting for every centavo that they spend.  These things are not a big deal and we take them for granted.In the organizations I work with, people earn enough to meet their family’s basic needs because those of us who could earn more tend to share their salaries with those whose work is valued less. In other words, I have met so many people who understand that beyond a very minimal threshold, happiness does not increase in proportion to income.

In my work the poor among us have an equal voice. We think and laugh and sit together in long and short meetings hatching plans of affirmation and subversion. We are not unaware of the inequities between us,  but we have forgiven each other for the moment while we are trying to end the problem.

In my world we refuse to be twisted and amputated to fit conceptions of what is good for women and girls. We allow our waistlines to expand as we please and  raise or lower our hemlines with impunity. We also raise our eyes to look deeply into the eyes of our lovers, our children and our friends.

In my world women and girls are not ashamed to be smart. We study the world around us in order to change it and mold it closer to our visions. Medicine and math; cooking and contraceptives; disruption and democracy— all the things under the sun and beyond the sun are our areas of interest.

In my world we are rarely afraid when we are together. Together we have ended criminal control of water and electricity in poor communities,  faced down abusive husbands and confronted our lack of self esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

In my world the pleasures of the body are welcomed with joy. We rejoice in our strength and  revel in our sensuality. We eat and sleep without worry. We dance and sing with abandon. We make love or refuse to make love without guile or guilt. We also expect to bear just the number of children we choose. In other words, we are  not afraid of our desires, our passions  our loves and our choices.

In my world we demand that justice triumphs in our intimate relationships and that caring thrives in our working ones.

In my world the atheist lives happily with the believer because when we allow ourselves to think and feel deeply we realize that we cannot really tell who are the heretics and who are not. In my world, we refuse allegiance to religious authorities that give no value women’s capacity to discern for themselves.

In my world, we stay in the Philippines because of the overwhelming poverty. We do so because in the face of iniquity, a simple act of decency is an act of heroism, a small act of compassion an act of renewal, and everyday we witness the tremendous productivity and creativity of the poor.

In my world we view call the  for the universal enjoyment of human rights as a serious and achievable proposal.

And here is the really inspiring thing, this world really does exist. It has existed for a long, long time and will continue to do so. It exists as anything would—full of contradictions and human frailty. But it is there nonetheless. And it is neither small nor narrow nor exclusive.

We must tell people about it lest the cynical, the overly-pragmatic and those who do not understand what they are missing succeed in hiding it from view.

Thank you, for this citation and the chance to tell you all about how lucky some of us are to be able to live our dreams now.

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