The temples of Angkor formed the backdrop of the recent Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) Communications workshop for Asian Youth Leaders in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Delegates from the youth wings of CALD member parties got together to learn about how to craft and convey a political message and the intricacies of giving a speech.
Most importantly, we were made to think about our core values and beliefs and what got us into politics in the first place. We got back to fundamentals. We realized that in all the countries we come from, rich or poor, developing or developed, there was something we all wanted to see in our nations: Change.
We took an active role in politics because we want to effect that change we want to see in our governments. We believe that things can be better, that our people can benefit from more freedom, that better policies can be implemented and that a democratic government would be more beneficial for citizens than other forms of government.
Be it in education, healthcare or free market policy, we want to see change, we want to see improvement, in improving the lives of our people.
We learnt the core values of liberalism, of why self-determination is important, why equality is important, why fundamentally people should be able to choose the type of life they want to live, without fear of persecution, why everyone should have the fundamental freedom and human rights accorded to them as declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We looked within ourselves to question our prejudices and fears, about our own values and beliefs, whether religious or otherwise and if these beliefs should have a place in politics. We acknowledged our own inadequacies and bias.
We were also forced to look at what type of influence we had within our parties. Were we overlooked because we were young? Because in the Asian culture, respect is always given to the elder? We were questioned if we even had a say or a voice within our parties.
For if we were to seek change in the world, we should first seek change within ourselves. And if we don’t even have the power to influence our own members within our own parties, then we can forget about influencing the people.
I was forced to step out of my shell. To take a leap and tackle public speaking. I was challenged on my conviction and I was made to think if I will step up to make the change, to be that public figure to make that change.
Will I give up my privacy I so value to be subjected to public criticism? Will I have the courage to be that public figure? To stand up as an opposition politician in Singapore?
I don’t yet know but I am increasingly aware that if I can’t stand up to be counted myself than I can’t expect others to fight my fight for me.
I hope more young people will begin to realise that and take part in electoral politics. The future is ours. The future is for us to shape!
Frederique Soh is a member of The Women Democrats.