“What is needed going forward is a philosophy based on human dignity, which all of us need and crave. We can end poverty if we start by looking at all human beings as part of a single global community that recognizes that everyone deserves a chance to build a life worth living.” — Jacqueline Novogratz in The Blue Sweater (p. 212)
We often say we believe in dignity, not dependence. Choice, not charity. And we’ve seen dignity in many different forms. We’ve seen it flow through the currents of electrical wires lighting rural villages deemed impossible to reach. We’ve watched it emerge from drip irrigation channels, quenching fields that were too dry to cultivate. We’ve heard it in stories of mothers who, for the first times in their lives, found out there was an affordable, clean hospital in which they could give birth.
We’ve seen dignity expressed in all of these ways and more, but we were curious — What does dignity mean to you? Some of our entrepreneurs answered this question, and were awed by their responses. You can watch them in the video above.
We turned this question to our community of followers, and collected your answers via Twitter and Facebook. Now we would like to share some of these inspiring responses with you:
@kleysippel: Ceasing to see developing nations as charity projects and begin serving through relationships, not handouts.
@Great_impact10: To me Dignity is upholding moral standards while serving humanity in any situation
@kalsoom82 Dignity is giving the poor the opportunity to have their own say in how to improve livelihoods & better their communities.
@ChallengesWW: #Dignity means being able to decide for yourself how to live your life.
@Danroy1002: To me, #dignity means having inherent & inviolable human rights, and seeing those rights fulfilled & respected.
@Oabello: Dignity=parity. no correlation b/w income and vulnerability to violence, disease, lack of opportunity & other hardships.
@CoralinaM: Dignity is the just treatment that everyone is entitled to, is respect without taking in consideration gender, ethnicity, age…
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H. Bryson: I think it’s an outward display of ones integral humanity.
D. Lynn Winski: Being able to live in decent housing, eat healthy food, get medical care, send your kids to school or go to school yourself, be treated like human beings and truly have an opportunity to be self sufficient.
R. Arce Posey: Being able to make choices that don’t force you to compromise your integrity.
U. Sen: It means freedom to pursue what stirs the soul, and respect and the appropriate behavior, speech, and responses from others to show these are given to you.
M. J. Burns: Taking care of my family and myself…and doing it with passion, commitment and integrity
M. Talliard: Dignity is the ability to live a life with kidness, respectful towards those who cross our path. Expressing pure love to all, however difficult it may be!
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Responses from the 2011 Acumen Fund Fellows
Elizabeth: Dignity means access to basic public services, opportunity to realize one’s potential, freedom and ability to support and provide for one’s family – simply because one is human.
Benje: For me dignity equates to value. If we value ourselves, and others value us, we have dignity. The greatest achievement can be that we create a society where everyone is valued equally…in that, we can all have dignity in who we are, what we believe, what we do, and how we live our life. For me, the truest sense of the word dignity is equality!
Shane: The ability to improve one’s livelihood through individual effort.
Mario: For me dignity is a mindset. It is first and foremost about having self-respect, self-awareness of the possibility to pursue happiness with your own means given your life conditions and the possibility to improve them. Secondly, but also very important, it is receiving respect from society. In the book If This is a Man by Primo Levi I have found my definition. The book is about the life of Jewish prisoners in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Dignity is to continue to be a man when the whole system around you is designed to deprive you of your humanity, to make you hopeless and helpless, to lose self respect. It all starts with simple care for oneself. “To stop caring about yourself, not to wash, to give up, was a death sentence. We must walk erect, without dragging our feet, not in homage to the Prussian discipline but to remain alive, not to begin to die.” This is what I mean by saying that dignity is first and foremost a personal matter.
Khuram: Dignity = Liberty + Equality
Follow the 2011 Acumen Fund Fellows’ personal blogs here and read their bios here.
The audience at the 2010 Investor Gathering watches the video on what dignity means to our entrepreneurs.
Want to share what dignity means to you? Comment below.
Taylor Ray is a Business Development Fellow in Acumen Fund’s New York office.