“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance that affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. Humanism stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. Humanism is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”
– The International Humanist and Ethical Union
For the last 5 years, I have been going around different Barangays, schools, offices and various sectors, to give lectures on Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction, the underlying message in which is, as stakeholders, we all need to be prepared so as not to be heavily dependent on Government all the time. The policy of empowerment, is enshrined in RA10121 also known as the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, giving Local Government Units up to “Purok“, or Barangay Zone, level, as they are more familiar with the Disaster/Hazard Risks in their respective areas, the power to decide, for themselves, on what and how to make their communities less vulnerable and more disaster resilient. This includes, even the most basic decision on whether or not to send their children to schools during bad weather, in the absence of a Department of Education (DepEd) or the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) advisory. This paradigm shift is based on several basic data which show that a community is more disaster resilient and hence, more sustainably progressive, when stakeholders are empowered to participate in the planning and decision making for risk reduction.
My lecture is just but one of the policies the government has implemented in an effort to make local communities disaster resilient, But definitely the most important as knowledge is the foundation when it comes to empowering Stakeholders. I have since come to realize that I am more effective when I’m using the Humanist approach to empowerment. Humanism is natural and appeals to our sense of duty to put human lives above all else and to harness the power within us in the performance of that duty.
From the very beginning, our culture and religious beliefs have been obstacles to making communities resilient. We are faced with the challenge of how to teach people the basic disaster preparedness and basic survival techniques when the local populace have been conditioned by religion, to pray and leave everything to God, when disaster strikes and to accept whatever the result as the will of a god. This is when Humanism becomes an effective tool, since it affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives, and that includes protecting it.
The way to counter old beliefs is to appeal to a language its followers understand. To appeal to that same belief that they hold and to use it to make them realize that they have been given skills and abilities by their creator, eyes to see, hands to work and brains to think for themselves. That it is their responsibility to use and utilize these gifts of life to the fullest, for if life is a gift from God, then all the reason to protect it.
Lastly, the democratic stance of Humanism, is in perfect consonance with the objective of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management’s policy of making it everyone’s duty, especially in giving them the responsibility to decide for themselves and in treating everyone as stakeholder. With this it is then easier to teach every stakeholder in the community the necessary knowledge, skill and confidence. More importantly, it allows us to reach the more vulnerable ones – the poor, women and children, and senior citizens, making them less vulnerable and more resilient. This way, it is then easier to implement development projects like poverty alleviation, education, health etc.
The dissemination of needed information and knowledge is true empowerment that gives people more confidence and the capability to take responsibility in shaping their lives and their future, which is what Humanism is all about.