I write to acknowledge the sad passing on November 9th of my dear friend and DTP trainer, Professor Virginia Dandan of the Philippines.
Virginia has a special place in the heart of many DTP alumni. For 15 years she taught DTP participants, sharing her knowledge and experience of human rights and development, laughing with them, being tough on them, emphasising the need for facts, for evidence and for critical thinking.
Virginia was an artist, a sculptor the first woman to be honored as artist-in-residence in sculpture at University of the Philippines and the first woman to become Dean of its College of Fine Arts. She served for twenty years on the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and became the first woman to Chair the Committee. Her time on the Committee is noted for advancing understanding of the content of economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to health, the right to housing and the right to culture. Virginia's commitment to Indigenous Peoples and to women was reflected in the weaving of their rights and perspectives in her sessions. Through role plays and exercises, DTP participants obtained insights into how as a Committee member, Virginia used to grill government representatives on their human rights records.
Virginia served as the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity from 2011–2017. She developing the Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity.
Virginia’s love of teaching and her belief in the vital work of human rights defenders combined in DTP’s courses. She reminded and showed participants that at the heart of struggles for human rights and justice are love and kindness.
Virginia had a very big heart and lived a good and long life of service. She leaves many legacies, including with her former students, many colleagues and friends. We miss her greatly. Vale Virginia.
Our condolences and thoughts go to her family and loved ones at this time.