Functionality and Pakikipagkapwa: Key Enablers of Children's Dangal (Dignity)

Dr Maria Margarita "Marjs" Lavides - IIRC20
Dr Maria Margarita "Marjs" Lavides
Thursday, November 19, 2020

There are two key enablers of children’s dignity – functionality and pakikipagkapwa or regarding others as kapwa (fellow human beings). This is based on the findings of my doctoral thesis entitled “Upholding the Dangal (Dignity) of Biracial (Haphap) Children in Angeles City, Philippines” which was published online last January 2020. My research led to the development of an indigenous model of children’s dignity which can be used by child rights advocates from the Philippines and other countries.

My data analysis revealed that children’s dangal has internal and external domains which pertain to the physical and psychological aspects, respectively. At the outer layer, dangal is affected by children’s experience of security that is enabled by functionality. An entity is considered functional if it is able to deliver its expected outputs. Some of the qualities that promote functionality include colourfulness, cleanliness, durability, space, and coolness. Despite the importance of functionality in promoting children’s dignity, there has been limited studies about it.

The inner layer of children’s dangal is attributed to the emotive component that is enabled by pakikipagkapwa. If pakikipagkapwa is observed, children experience positive emotions such as happiness and a sense of belonging. Lack of pakikipagkapwa triggers negative emotions such as loneliness, anger, and isolation.

Functionality and pakikipagkapwa are hindered by four major barriers namely, social prejudice, poverty, government inadequacy, and environmental disturbances. Social prejudice is contrary to kapwa’s notion of equality and mutuality. Indicators of social prejudice include subjecting children to corporal punishment, lack of consultation, social stigma, stereotyping, bullying, and name-calling. Poverty limits functionality and pakikipagkapwa as parents’ lack of resources hamper their capability to provide for their children’s basic needs such as food and shelter as well as the opportunity to socialize with other children and adults. Government inadequacy, as exemplified in lack of classrooms and playgrounds, has made the community less functional for children. The government’s insufficient child protection measures also restrict children’s chance to engage in pakikipagkapwa through outdoor activities. Environmental disturbances such as typhoons, flooding, and extreme humidity, have worsened the apparent limited functionality in children’s immediate surroundings. To counter the impact of such barriers, establishing a functional environment, addressing social prejudice, and providing financial assistance as well as access to education, are recommended.

The dangal model presents an alternative perspective of children’s rights. However, it is not a contradiction but rather a supplement to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The dangal model is ground-breaking as it is a child-centred view of children’s dignity and rights – concepts which have been largely dominated by Western ideologies and adults’ biases.