Dignity a vital aspect of economic empowerment

GLOBAL Dignity Day takes place on October 20 when the world will focus on how people live either with or without dignity. Global Dignity is an inspiration-based organisation founded by Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway, Professor Pekka Himanen and US entrepreneur John Hope BryantThe concept of dignity is very important in South Africa as it fits in perfectly with the Ubuntu principle. I would like to explore how dignity fits in with holistic empowerment.

Holistic or real empowerment has different dimensions. This holistic approach was first articulated by President Jacob Zuma late last year. It was developed to have five more empowerment components - economic, political, social, mental and spiritual.

These empowerments mirror the Maslow hierarchy of needs. Economic empowerment comprises people's basic physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter.

Political empowerment involves needs such as law and order to attain some level of security. It has to do with having a say in how things around you are governed.

The next component is social empowerment, when people give back to society once their physical and security needs are met. This can lead to mental empowerment when people expand their minds beyond the narrow boundaries society prescribes.

The ultimate result of mental freedom is spiritual empowerment, which looks to higher needs beyond body and mind.

As these five components of holistic empowerment are not necessarily sequential they could take place in a different order.

But the stark reality is it is difficult to think about mental or spiritual empowerment on an empty stomach, or for people to consider giving back to society when they don't have a roof over their heads.

So, when you try to link the concept of dignity to holistic empowerment you have a perfect fit. The history of our country has seen a terrible erosion of the components of holistic empowerment and dignity.

The new democratic dispensation's primary focus was to first build on the political empowerment component, which manifests in the right to vote and the right to fearlessly express one's views in the political arenas of South Africa and the world.

Various political administrations urged people to give back to their communities through the Vukuzenzele campaigns, which tried to accelerate social empowerment. President Thabo Mbeki's concept of the African Renaissance and Nepad initiatives addressed mental empowerment.

Initiatives, like the Moral Renewal Campaign, were aimed at spiritual empowerment. The largest issue to tackle was economic empowerment, actually the basis of true empowerment.

Economic empowerment influences everything we do, what we are and where we are going. So, dignity has to be embedded in economic empowerment, as it is one of the foundations of our existence.

In South Africa we need to ask ourselves difficult questions about the approach we take when empowering ourselves and |others.

Where is dignity when we have a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots? Where is dignity when the newly empowered flaunt their wealth in a wasteful way without a thought as to how they could help others still trapped in poverty?

Where is dignity when you sell your soul and stab others in the back for the sake of money? Where is dignity when there is collusion to increase prices to maintain profits at the poor's expense?

Where is dignity when young people treat their elders with contempt for the sake of financial expediency? Where is dignity when we don't pay our public servants a dignified wage to teach our young ones, nurse us back to health and allow our public infrastructure to function properly?

On the other hand, where is dignity when public servants do not deliver on their mandates and get paid for just being at work while robbing those they should serve?

The bottom line is dignity is a basic |human right that belongs to everyone regardless of race, gender or religion.

I challenge everyone to commit themselves to three actions in the next year so as to promote and uphold their and others' dignity so Africa can be empowered with dignity.


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