Palawan’s New Ashoka Fellow
On Thursday, February 21, Palawan resident and social entrepreneur Amina Evangelista Swanepoel became one of the three latest inductees into the very prestigious Ashoka Fellowship in an elegant ceremony in the Arts Center of Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Her husband Marcus and immediate Evangelista family were all there.
Ashoka was a tyrannical, warlike king in India who, after a particularly bloody war, was so appalled by what he had done that he converted to Buddhism and established monuments to Gautama all over India, as well as a series of rest houses along road sides where travelers could find shelter and safety as they wended their way across India. This in itself was a social innovation and represented a radical change in thinking patterns – and the Ashoka Fellowship today honors social innovators who achieve their goals first by this same sort of radical reframing of social challenges. These change-makers come up with creative approaches to social problems, from education to health to governance to the infrastructure for living. Kevin Lee, otherwise known as Kiwi, of A Single Drop For Safe Water, is the other very dynamic Palawan-based Ashoka fellow.
Amina is the executive director and co-founder of Roots of Health or Ugat ng Kalusugan, the not-for-profit organization that provides education and clinical health services in the field of Reproductive Health to undeserved communities and schools all over Palawan. The work of this organization has an innovative approach to women’s health in that, first of all, it considers health as a human right, a right which is not based on social privilege or bank accounts. Further, the organization considers women as entitled to participate in and enjoy a healthy reproductive life. (Translation: sex is for women too!) Roots of Health also holds that women are empowered by understanding how their reproductive organs work, and how to plan, control, and realize a healthy reproductive life. This is why Roots of Health works in high schools through-out the province. The organization rejects the old teaching framework of shame, fear, and silence in abstinenc- only education – because it is all too apparent that this approach does not work.