Friday, May 02, 2008

Ms. Thency Gunasekaran is a 2007 International Intern

Ms. Thency Gunasekaran is from Malaysia

The journey towards becoming a modern and democratic society has not been an easy one for Korea. The Kwangju Uprising that took place in May 1980 is a major event that has played a key role in shaping Korean politics as we see it today. What began as a student protest in the city of Kwangju escalated and became an armed civilian struggle. The government troops then enacted brutal acts of violence on the citizens of this southwestern city. Although the 10-day struggle ended in military suppression, this particular event, also known as the May 18 Uprising is undeniably one of the most important and significant events that has helped shape South Korean democracy and politics, especially in the 1980 and 1990s.

A lot of research has been done on the Uprising. Various articles written, song sung, documentation done. However, little documentation has been done on the women's experiences during this Uprising. Very little documentation has been done on the roles that the women played during this Uprising.

This research paper aims to document the voice of the women who experienced, contributed, participated and actively shaped the May 18 Uprising in 1980. This paper will document the roles that women have played during this uprising. it cannot be denied that women are an integral and important of any society. As such, there is a need to accord these women the recognition due to them.

She made her final report presentation

Read more:

Read this doc on Scribd: Project Report-Thency

Read some stories are available here:

The Story of JeonOK-JU

The Story of Anh Sung-Ryea

The Story of Hong Geumsug

Thency Gunasekaran talking about her self

I’m Thency and by nature I am a very friendly, energetic, passionate, adaptable and practical person. Professionally I enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts, looking for innovative ways to solve any problems or situations that might arise during the course of my work. I like to try different ways of doing things instead of always following what has been tried and tested. I am able to work independently with minimum supervision but at the same time I am also able to work in a team.

My passion lies in human rights issues with a special focus on trafficking of women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. I consider human trafficking a form of slavery and believe it should be eradicated with utmost vigor. In recent times I have been working with marginalized communities using a rights based approach as well as active participation from the community itself. This has served to remind me of the importance of knowing one’s rights to be able to actually claim them when they are violated. I strongly believe that education and awareness are very vital elements when we talk about rights and democracy. By education I’m not referring to an institutionalized education. I’m actually referring to the process of raising awareness as a whole. One does not need to be highly literate to know one’s rights or to be entitled to one’s rights. A person is entitled to their rights regardless of their status. This is something that I will work on in future. Many people aren’t aware of this and sadly this contributes to their rights being continuously violated.

Where skills are concerned my strength lies in organizing events be it workshops, trainings or others. I am also a competent public speaker who enjoys sharing information with people. I enjoy conducting trainings as well. I take great delight in working with and interacting with people. The human mind is something that continues to fascinate me till today. I have had the opportunity to attend various trainings on topics that range from Gender-based violence, good governance, leadership, professional etiquette, conflict mediation, presentations and public speaking, child sexual abuse, personal safety for children, writers for women’s rights and marketing. All these workshops have helped me to open my thinking and look at things from various perspectives. As for my hobbies, I enjoy reading, listening to and playing music, dancing and meeting people from various backgrounds. These activities serve as a method for me to relax and unwind after working. Everything that I have involved myself in and participated in has served to mould me to be what I am today. My passion and interest to bring about change is a strong drive factor that pushes me to try and do what I can to bring about a better understanding and respect for human rights in my country.

My expectations, objectives, and interests on the human rights internship program.

I first heard about the May 18 Human Rights Internship Program last year. At that time the program and learning experience it had to offer intrigued me. Unfortunately I couldn’t apply for it then. A year down the road, my interest in the program has increased as during this past one year, I have had the opportunity to read, listen and learn a little bit about the foundation, its purpose and aims as well as the role it plays in promoting human rights and democracy.

I have been involved in voluntary work since 2003 only. Although my interest and passion has always revolved around issues affecting humans, justice and equality, I only got the opportunity to actively do something constructive when I entered university. Since my university days I’ve been actively involved with local Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – mainly with groups working on women’s rights, child’s rights and youth development.

I’ve been an active member of AIESEC, a global youth run organization that aims to foster peace and understanding via developing the potential of young people, sensitizing them towards social issues and providing them with the opportunity to experience and understand various cultures. I believe that peace can only be achieved when humans learn to accept each other without prejudice. My time in AIESEC exposed me to the reality that many young people are actually not aware of what’s happening around them, in the world. Thus I made it one of my goals to incorporate a stronger presence of political and social issues within my organizations’ activities and projects. I took up the role of the person in charge of member development. This enabled me to plan my members learning. I utilized this platform to reach out to the youth in my university to raise awareness about important issues like human rights, gender issues, child’s rights, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS, globalization, the state of the indigenous people and the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity.At the same time, my volunteer work with the local NGO’s exposed me to the harsh realities of the human rights and political scenario in Malaysia. I realized all was not well. This exposure has helped shape and challenge my thoughts and viewpoint. I became convinced that working for human rights is something that I wanted to do. Hence my decision to work with Empower right after my graduation in 2006. Working with Empower has given me the opportunity to experience working at the grassroots level with marginalized communities as well as doing work like administrative tasks, organizational tasks, report writing, training and so on. Empower uses the rights based approach in our training and project. This has enabled me to familiarize myself with instruments like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, The UniversalHuman Rights Declaration and this has in turn reinforced my believe that education and awareness about the importance and the value of freedom and rights is a vital element in ensuring that a person’s right is upheld. I strongly believe that it is extremely important for society to be aware that a lot of things that they take for granted or struggle for is in actual fact a basic right.

One of the main reasons for my interest in the internship program is that having read about the May 18 Uprising incident, having met and spoken to some Koreans, I realized that there is a sense of patriotism and pride that they exude when they speak about their country’s struggle for democracy. It struck me that these are people who seem to truly appreciate democracy and their freedom. This is something, sadly not very apparent amongst the Malaysian youth I’ve met. Not many youth seem to realize that the price for democracy and freedom has been great… doesn’t come easy.

I believe that I can learn a lot from this internship. I would like to know what is it that makes the Koreans so aware of the importance of democracy, freedom and the up-keeping of human rights in a nations survival and growth. I’d like to bring that knowledge to share with the youth of my country as I believe that the youth play a crucial role in the quest for freedom.

My objectives for applying for this internship would be to gain more exposure and knowledge about the Korean struggle for democracy. I’d like to know about the history of the struggle and what is it that continues to drive the people to strive to maintain democracy and respect human rights. I would also like to learn and observe how Korean NGOs work, the approach that they use when handling human rights issues. I would also like to bring back what I would learn in Korea to share with my fellow activists in Malaysia. I believe that the theoretical knowledge as well as the practical experience I would gain from this internship will prove to be invaluable in my quest to promote and uphold human rights.

My expectations towards this internship would be to firstly, be able to learn in depth about the Korean struggle for democracy and to appreciate the sacrifices that have been made to achieve democracy and uphold human right. I would like to learn and listen to the people themselves about their experiences, and how even after such a devastating incident like the Uprising, the people have managed to rise again and move on with life.

Secondly, I hope to experience a challenging internship where I will be able to learn new skills and knowledge, stimulate and challenge my mind and way of thinking. At the same time, I would also like to contribute to the May 18 Foundation in any way that I might be able to. Networking with the people from the foundation and the other interns would also be something I hope to do as well.

Last but not the least, I would like to experience the Korean culture. The best way to learn about people is to actually live amongst them, speak to them, learn their language, experience their culture and to be open to learning experiences. My exposure through my reading as well as interacting with Korean friends has deepened my interest in Korea and her culture as a whole.

With this, I sincerely hope that I will be given the opportunity to participate in this internship program as I believe it will be a fulfilling and beneficial experience for both sides. I hope to be able to interact and engage with activists from Korea and others as well in order to learn from them as well as to share my experiences.

Read more here

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