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Hard to define “empowerment”: It can define different things to different persons depending also from the context and situation. Moreover it is applicable to multiple areas and it is something hard to quantify or to be grasped. At the same time its natural intangibility that makes the word so powerful and “high”.

As ENGAGE is preparing to embark itself in a completely new approach focused on supporting young adults living with disabilities in the quest for their “purpose” or meaning, it happens I am reading a lot of stuff on self -help and leadership.

Recently I came across the word “elevation” and I like to link it with the theme of this year International Day of Persons with Disabilities "Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities".

It is obvious or at least should be that with no inclusion a life of a person living in a vulnerable status would inexorably continue in an vortex of endless despair and hopeless.  

This does not apply only and exclusively to persons living with disabilities but to every single person suffering and struggling. Deep inside us we know that it is not just the drug addicted, the sex worker or a person with mental health issues or physical disabilities feeling or being vulnerable. It is simply and plainly each of us: we are all vulnerable no matter how wealthy how lucky we are in life.

It can be a momentary phase in our lives; it could be caused by problem at work or with your partner or family breakdowns. There thousands and plus reasons for feeling inadequate and vulnerable.

The renown author Brene’ Brown, a professor of social work at University of Houston, highlights, in her bestsellers books, the importance of concepts like shame and vulnerability. She almost celebrates the latter as an essential component of human being. Without being and showing vulnerability, it is unconceivable to think, act and behave as human being.

As hard or as impossible to describe, empowerment is all about elevating ourselves from a common and shared sense of vulnerability. It is all about being able to get strengthened by showing the way we are, showing off our strengths but most importantly also disclosing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Courage, grit and a good sense of positivity and most importantly a huge quantity of  resilience are all deemed to be essential ingredients to get into this exercise called “elevation” that by unleashing our fears, allows us the overcoming of our blind spots.

This special day is supposed to advocate only in favor of persons living with disabilities: offer them a job, let them have a fair chance in life. It is all about putting in practice the concept of ‘reasonable” accommodation, meaning that, making an effort, is a praiseworthy gesture that can make the difference.

Actually today is much more. It is also about the capacity and ability, hidden in each of us, of being able get elevated above adversities and achieving in a very practical way this politically charged word called “empowerment”.

Today my thoughts go to many persons I met that, for different reasons, I was not able to support or help. It is therefore a day for regrets but also reenergizing.

Achieving elevation, after all, is about admitting our fallibility and smile at it while learning from it. We know we are not perfect and life itself is not perfect, it is full of upside downs.

What counts today is that we should not forget that every single of us can make a bit of efforts and all efforts together can make some difference.

We should all keep in mind that “WE” is stronger and better then “I”, even if it is much harder to be put in practice especially when, from an assumed position of strength, we think we are there to help.

We should learn that those going through their phases of vulnerability, those at the receiving hands, those for which these special days are dedicated, have inner and hidden strengths that will ultimately make the difference for better and for good.

Resilience is a hard fought quality and ability but each of us can master it.

Last but not the least we should remind that today is not just a day for those living with disabilities. It is a day for every single one of us because living is about experiencing and coping with vulnerabilities.

The key to success and empowerment is all about gaining, effort after effort, the right armor to move ahead in life and transform vulnerabilities into the foundations of our strengths. In this quest, we have lots to learn from those living with disabilities.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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