|  May 31, 2010

Like corruption, sustainability, maintenance and many other words in the English language, there is no Thai word used for empowerment. Funny, how language can tell us so much about a culture. The ubiquitous Thai word for corruption, for instance, is simply ‘kin’ or to eat. Scary.

When we came out with the theme for the empowerment issue, the editorial department struggled to explain what it meant to our production and sales teams. Think about it, it is quite a hard word to explain; and to invest oneself or others with power, surely must be even harder to act upon.

At this juncture in Thailand’s history, empowerment, though not a buzz word, is a buzz action. As we have seen of late, there are a lot of previously voiceless people who are feeling empowered, and emboldened, to act. Unfortunately, action can be misdirected and many confuse empowerment with the use of power and might itself.

I do believe that our empowerment issue is quite timely in that we have featured a number of truly empowered people who have something in common: they all believe in themselves, in their ability to better themselves as well as others. Empowerment, to them, is about being who they want to be, achieving their goals, living the life which they have chosen and most of all, working towards helping others to attain similar goals.

Empowerment comes in many forms. For me, about once a year, I attend an international conference for women. I miss most of the speeches, don’t attend many of the functions, but I return from these experiences energised and chomping at the bit. All it takes, for me, is to rub shoulders with incredible women, listen to their stories, learn from their mistakes, hear of their achievements and I return to work with enough inspiration to last me a year. We all need different things in life, whether it is to learn how to read, to be given a chance at a vocation, to discover our talent, to find shelter, to receive a smidgen of kindness or simply to be inspired.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “we must become the change we want to see”, which, frankly, is much harder done than said. For so many who are born with disadvantages in life to be able to see clearly and act according to what they can become surely must also include the ability to see, or be shown, what possibilities, what options there are. That is what so many of the people included in this month’s edition devote their lives towards: guiding others in turning their abstract dreams into solid realities.

Our entire nation (well, a huge majority anyway) now dreams of a future of peace, stability, democracy, accountability, prosperity and equality for all. But surely, as Gandhi said, we must become that within ourselves first. We must be peaceful, we must respect democracy, there has to be accountability, individual prosperity should be protected and all opinions and minds treated with equal respect.

Let’s get empowered!

Citylife this month:

Our two editors, Cindy Tilney and James Austin Farrell have met with and interviewed some fascinating people this month, from Greg Wallis, an amputee, who owes so much to the Prostheses Foundation and its secretary general, Ass. Prof. Therdchai Jivacate, to Sangwan Sapma from Heifer Foundation, who explains the foundation’s efforts to achieve empowerment through sustainability. Farrell also interviews intriguing artist and thinker, Sawan Yawnghwe, whose belief in individuality is self empowering. I talk to ‘Mae Pang’, a local woman, born in poverty, who has risen above it to dedicate her life to alleviating others. Not the lightest issue of Citylife, but we hope you enjoy it!