Can a person like fashion, baking, and sports all at the same time?
Meet Jhandel, an 18-year-old gender equality advocate. This young aspiring chef spends a lot of time both in the kitchen and in the basketball court.
He enjoys cooking and baking, as well as playing basketball and volleyball. (WATCH: Can boys play with dolls?)
“Actually, I have plenty of dreams in life,” Jhandel said in Filipino. “One of them is to be a chef and a baker, and to tour around different countries.”
“And of course, to become a fashion model,” the teenager added, smiling.
At present, Jhandel is in senior high school and is inching towards these dreams. At school and in his community, Jhandel is also trying to protect fellow youth from gender-based discrimination.
Don’t hate, educate
In the Philippines, there are no national laws protecting people from abuse or discrimination based on one’s SOGIE or Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression.
- Sexual Orientation: Who you’re attracted to
- Gender Identity: How you see or identify yourself
- Gender Expression: How you express yourself (i.e., through clothes, the way you walk, talk or present yourself)
Although a few cities and provinces have local ordinances against gender-based discrimination, the problem can be really rooted to people’s lack of understanding of SOGIE. (WATCH: This boy teaches gender and diversity)
Misinformation makes it easier for people to misjudge and hurt others.
Some young Filipinos who do not “fit” within “gender norms” their community believes in become targets of ridicule, bullying, and unfair treatment may it be at school, in their neighborhood, at work, or even in their own homes – hence the importance of also educating teachers and parents about SOGIE.
"For me, we should be able to express ourselves,” Jhandel said.
For Jhandel, no one deserves to be discriminated for how they look, dress, walk, talk or identify themselves.
Jhandel wants people to realize that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons are just like everyone else – they have rights, struggles, capabilities, and dreams.
This young advocate is among the teens Save the Children trains on adolescent health. (WATCH: Supporting the rights of LGBT children)
“In our community, there are really many cases of discrimination. People gossip about each other,” Jhandel shared. “So whoever is discriminated, either a girl or a boy, loses their self-confidence.”
This can affect a child’s motivation, mental and emotional well-being, “Sometimes they no longer study because they’re afraid of getting discriminated at school.”
“Even if others discriminate you, don’t look down on yourself,” Jhandel advised. “Be proud of who you are.”
Learning begins at home. Parents play an important role in teaching their children about respect and diversity.
To stop gender-based discrimination and its harmful effects, we must first correct our misconceptions and rid of our prejudices.
If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Empower through education!