At the beginning of spring, I had the tremendous fortune to interview Alexandra Rueda, a member of the Redefy Panama Chapter. Alexandra is a seventeen year old student from Colegio Real de Panama whose passions include horsebackriding and participating in Debate Club. Through her involvement in this activity, she has taken part in many conferences such as PANAMUN and HACIA Democracy. Alexandra has been an active member of Redefy Panama since 2017. In her words, she “was looking to be part of a social movement/group in which [she] can express [her] thoughts and have a opinion of current situations and injustices that occur in Panama and in the world”.
Redefy Panama was created in 2015 by Felipe Felix. Currently, the chapter has approximately 600 followers across all of its social media platforms. Please learn more about the chapter and follow their events here: https://redefy.wixsite.com/panama.
What was the inspiration in taking action as leaders and bringing Redefy’s message of tolerance and acceptance to Panama?
Personally my inspiration was based in the belief that people are not born hating others, that we are not born discriminating. This is because when we are born, we do not know the difference between a white person, a black person, or a person of a different religion. The sad thing is that from little kids, the seed of hate is planted on us, and that is what is killing the human race. Hate and evil blinds people and does not allow them to think clearly, and for this reason they end up committing all kinds of discriminatory acts. Therefore, globalizing Redefy’s message will hopefully inspire this generation to pave the way for change that will ultimately reinforce the value of tolerance and acceptance.
Since then, what have been some achievements/accomplishments that have been implemented in Redefy Panama’s Chapter?
Well, we recently met with an organization called RET INTERNATIONAL. This NGO deals with issues very similar to those of Redefy and, for this reason, it seemed like a great idea to do some activities together. At the end, we had a conversation with members of Redefy Panama and RET. We all had a good experience as the RET members told us about their experiences and points of view about xenophobia and other issues of social injustice. I feel that in this meeting both organizations had a satisfactory experience. Also we have been visiting some schools and one university (USMA) to talk and explain what Redefy and our mission are.
How are you hoping Redefy Panama’s message will influence the younger generation ?
I hope with all my heart that the message of acceptance and tolerance that Redefy is trying to promote is instilled in the hearts and minds of as many young people as possible, since the youth of today are the adults of tomorrow.
What actions do you think must be done by the youth to change society for the better?
If you are asking me what virtues and values most need to be reinforced in society, in the world and in each individual, I think my answer would be respect. For me, respect is the basis for a harmonious society without hatred. If respect, acceptance, tolerance and peace are the key elements in society, then hatred and serious conflicts of discrimination and social injustice can be eradicated. Starting with ourselves we have to change. Change for a better society full of peace. As a society, we must walk in one direction, towards respect, tolerance, and inclusion. No more discrimination. No more “fear of change”.
With the pace of a rapidly diversifying society, how can schools be more progressive and spread the message of inclusivity?
Schools have different ways of being inclusive, but I think, to accomplish change, they should start with a very controversial issue: families with parents of the same gender. At the precise moment that schools begin to create an environment of acceptance and respect for the LGBT community without discrimination, a more tolerant and respectful future generation towards people of different sexual orientation will be achieved.
What advice do you have for students who want to create positive change in society?
Never give up. No matter how many obstacles, how many different opinions you find on your path, you need to always fight for what is morally correct and for what you believe in. People with determination, with a passion to seek a common good in society will end up achieving their goal.
What was the biggest challenge you had to face in this chapter, and how did you overcome it?
I think that the biggest challenge we are facing is being able to enter the consciousness of the residents of Panama. We have made visits to different schools and universities to spread the message of Redefy. I feel that, little by little, we will win when more people know us and know about our mission, so we will create a consenting and conscious society.
Have you or someone you know been affected by prejudice or discrimination, and what is the most appropriate way to manage a situation like that?
Yes, I have lived through different forms of gender discrimination. As a female, I am a faithful believer in the idea of a “strong and independent woman”. I feel that, despite how much society has progressed with gender equality in the legal and social field, there is still a lot to work on. Sadly, even today we experience acts of inequality such as “you are a girl you can not do x thing”, “that’s too much for a woman”, or “she’s that pretty … must be silly”. Many people still have stereotypes that women can not do the same jobs as men and that they should dedicate themselves to just raising their children and taking care of the home. There is also a wage gap demonstrating a lower salary payed to woman than to men for the same job, without any justification. Another example is that the hiring personnel in companies prefer to hire men because they are “more stable” do not need a maternity leave. These “small” events that still happen on a day to day basis are what have stalled us as a society. We need a change to break these barriers and stereotypes and it is needed now.
How does the role of social media and technological communication aid the process of diffusing Redefy’s message?
The role of social media helps to spread Redefy´s message because in this day and age we are able to post information and articles about social problems, creating a space where people can express their opinion in an interactive way and at the same time learn about others’ experiences.