Professor Virginia Dandan is one of Asia’s best known human rights experts, contributing to global human rights movements over more than three decades. An artist, sculptor and senior academic at the University of the Philippines, Virginia Dandan served as an independent expert on the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) from 1990 to 2010. She was Chair of CESCR for 10 years, as it defined the content of these rights and the obligations of states to them in a highly influential series of UN General Comments. From 2011 to 2017, Virginia was the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and International Solidarity and developed the Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity.
For almost two decades, Virginia has generously volunteered her time as a DTP trainer. Virginia says that DTP acknowledges what an essential role its trainers play in DTP’s sustainability. DTP’s trainers are expert professionals in their fields. What they teach in these training programs are not empty words but based on their expertise and personal experience.
Virginia says she enjoys training with DTP because these programs provide her with an opportunity to work closely with those who are working on the ground, resisting repression, and striving to establish human dignity.
“In my experience over the years, the DTP training program has been one of the most consistent and sustainable that I have participated in and as such, it makes a truly long-lasting impact on the participants. I have always felt that too often, the word ‘human’ is overlooked. For this reason, I welcome every chance I am given towards restoring the ‘human’ in ‘human rights’. In fact, that is the title of my recent doctoral dissertation. DTP has given me the invaluable opportunity to promote human rights values and principles that I believe should be at the heart of all human rights education and advocacy programs especially on the ground.”
The locations and venues for DTP’s programs offer unique opportunities for the trainers and participants to bond and get to know each other personally.
“We have been to the mountain top, we have been by the sea, we have been at the heart of the urban center. We even stayed in nuns’ dormitory in Timor-Leste. It was a wonderful experience. We ate simple but nutritious food. Those moments of breaking bread are important. We share memories and get to know the participants well.”
Virginia has seen the curriculum of DTP’s programs evolve over the years. She believes it has become sharper, more pertinent and more attuned to the needs of participants. She has no doubt that DTP’s programs touch the lives of human rights advocates. DTP’s participants have the seeds for advocating human rights in their hearts – her aim and approach is to help these seeds blossom.
“I know that my audience, the participants of the DTP program, will be able to go back and apply what I teach in human rights advocacy works in their communities. That’s the most important part of all to me. Many participants keep in touch after the training. I hope the DTP program will continue to make changes. It is so precious.”