What Does it Mean to Live a Life with Dignity?

Jennifer Corriero
Executive Director at TakingITGlobal

This is a question I have asked groups of students in classrooms each year for the past decade as part of Global Dignity Day.

Established in 2005, by Young Global Leaders HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Pekka Himanen, Global Dignity Day is linked to the 2020 process of the World Economic Forum, in which leaders from politics, business, academia, and civil society join efforts to improve the state of the world.

HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway shares that “Once we realise that every human being has the right to lead a dignified life, our differences become less important. On this common ground we can work out how to live with our differences and take advantage of the positive opportunities that resides within them. Cultural freedom is key. We all have multiple identities. It is vital that we find ways to utilize these identities in a constructive way.”

Given my involvement in the Young Global Leaders community, I was invited to join the team as founding Country Chair in Canada for Global Dignity Day in 2006. I decided to organize my first session together with my friends Kim Samuel and her daughter Caitlin Samuel who was a student at Greenwood College School in Toronto. I remember the feelings of excitement as we planned our activities. We agreed that we wanted to include art, a fun game and storytelling. We decided to create a painting that would become a canvas backdrop for students to Pledge to Dignity and I can recall the shift in the room when people stepped forward to sign their name.


When we make a personal commitment that is linked to a larger national and global movement, we are supported by a momentum that carries us forward to new possibilities.

I am so proud of the many ways that this movement has been growing in Canada alongside 400,000 students from around the world. I am especially grateful to our growing team of partners, national role models, champions and Steering Committee that is currently led by Giovanna Mingarelli who took on the role as County Chair in 2012. I would also like to acknowledge the Samuel Family Foundation who is supporting Global Dignity Day this year as a Silver Sponsor.

Specifically, Kim Samuel has been an influential advocate for the movement to ensure every human being is living a life of dignity. In a recent article published by Huffington Post Kim writes, “In other words, dignity and belonging are inextricably intertwined, and each requires the same three pathways for support: respect, recognition, and reciprocity. By enabling dialogue, Global Dignity Day opens the gate to those crucial pathways.”

This year, I will be spending Global Dignity Day in Arviat, Nunavut as a follow-up to my trip to Arviat in October of 2014.


My involvement in the Symposium on Overcoming Isolation and Fostering Social Connectedness that took place in Toronto last year was a catalyst for me to deepen my own understanding of Canada’s most remote and isolated communities in the North.


I have come to realize that our friends in Nunavut offer stories of incredible resilience and contributions of cultural significance. At the same time, Inuit people face uniquely challenging barriers in the context of Canada today given their remote geographic location combined with the ongoing battles to overcome the legacy of residential schools and relocation experiments. The sad truth is that this history and many current realities for Indigenous peoples shows us that human dignity is not always respected and it is our responsibility as Canadians to recognize this and help address the problem.

  • 62% of children living in the North are food insecure. (Food Banks Canada)


The following is one of the core principles that is promoted by Global Dignity: “A dignified life means an opportunity to fulfill one’s potential, which is based on having a human level of health care, education, income and security.”

In Canada, the Connected North program has been dedicated to helping students living in the North fulfill their potential through providing interactive educational experiences. This program provides opportunities for Indigenous youth in remote and northern communities to connect with others through virtual classroom exchanges using interactive technologies supported by Cisco. With an emphasis on storytelling, the hope is that this program will allow communities to share experiences of resilience and contribute to overcoming isolation. TakingITGlobal has recently taken on the role as lead ecosystem partner for Connected North and is facilitating North-to-North and North-to-South connections with participating schools.

Unfortunately, on September 6th, 2015, the Connected North partner school in Cape Dorset was involved in a devastating fire. The entire building along with all of its contents including books, supplies, musical instruments and technologies were completely destroyed.

My heart reaches out to all of the students and teachers who lost their school in the fire. Together with our team at TakingITGlobal, we decided to organize a fundraising effort in order to to send school supplies, art supplies and journals as a gift for our friends in Cape Dorset. To date, we have raised $1550 and have ordered our first round of supplies.

The loss of one school in Cape Dorset is a loss for all of us as it increases our collective challenge of ensuring all Canadians have the opportunity to access education. While the geographic isolation experienced by our friends in Cape Dorset has been amplified as a result of the fire, our hope is is to continue making linkages with students through art, storytelling and social connectedness.

As you prepare for Global Dignity Day on October 21st this year, we invite you to reflect on what dignity means to you and the actions you will take to increase dignity in the lives of people in your community.   Below are you will find a list of words that students generated by students that define what it means to live a life with dignity!


ABCs of Dignity

A               Acceptance
B               Beauty
C                Community
D               Diverse
E                Equity
F                Fairness
G               Generosity
H                Hope
I                 Interconnected
J                Joyful
K               Kindness
L                Loving
M              Multicultural
N                Nice
O                Openness
P                Peaceful
Q               Questioning
R               Respect
S                Self-esteem
T                Togetherness
U               Understanding
V               Volunteering
W              Women’s rights
X               Xylophone sounds
Y                Youth
Z                Zen

If you are interested in getting involved, here is a link to the Global Dignity Day Facilitator’s Guide: http://globaldignity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GDDC_Facilitator_Guide_E.pdf