When Does The Talking Stop & The Work Begin?

Samantha Inesta
Human Rights Fellow

This is the season of conferences, panel discussions and speaking engagements all aimed to educate, bring awareness and ultimately stop injustices such as human trafficking. There’s an event happening almost every week and I wonder sometimes what sort of impact is being made? Film makers from other countries are donating their documentaries from India to Southeast Asia in the hopes of opening a dialogue on international human trafficking. Conversely, women here are also vying for a dialogue on the same issue for American girls, mostly of color. Organizations use their survivors to sit on panels, tell their story, for awareness purposes, while praising the people who put her up there. There is a lot of dialogue on the issue, sometimes too much. The reason why I say this is because there is an event for literally everything. When CSW hits the UN in March it is the biggest conversation you will ever see between diplomats, UN staff, activists, survivors and celebrities that goes nowhere. A lot of posturing and self idolization while networking and passing around of resumes and business cards with the hope of a new position or collaboration. Nothing else.

We see this way too many times. Non profits, NGOs big world organizations having these types of events not to really change anything but to receive funding by the people who will never ask for transparency on the work they do. They want the donations without actually doing much to effect change. In some cases they become the next layer of the cycle of inter-dependency for survivors but no one really sees it because it’s carefully masked by words like “mentorship” and “empowerment”. To effectively execute these types of programs there must be an exit strategy for all of this. When young people seek out a mentor, whether it’s for business, projects or an entrepreneurial venture, they seek someone who will empower them but will also let go. What is the point of feeling that you have overcome when you are bound to something that will always have control over you and decide how long you will have that support? This can come in many forms, even from people who have been victims themselves because it was done to them but once they broke away on their own and have the upper hand, they will do the same because that is the prototype that was used on them.

This endless parading around of agencies, activists, organizations and survivors just to talk about the signs, what we can all do together and how we are stronger together falls flat when everyone is done talking. There are egos, issues, brokenness and wanting to be the best and biggest out there. Small non profits try and cling onto the bigger ones and pant at the table just to get whatever crumbs fall so that they can feel like they are part of something. Their focus isn’t on growing their work in a way that shows professionalism and dignity, it’s about being seen. Most funding is tied up in foundations and government agencies but unless you qualify for their unattainable standards, it doesn’t matter how many places you speak at, you’ll never be on the list. But that’s the real reason why there’s so much talking and not much action, if people can be convinced that something is actually changing then donors that wouldn’t normally give, may start now. There’s nothing wrong with wanting donations and steady funding, we all need it, especially the small unnoticed ones that are actually doing the work, but there’s a way to do it with integrity and some scruples.

If you don’t know much about human trafficking then I urge you to attend an event like that, but don’t let it be the only thing you do. Understand that the people up there want your donations more than you activism even though they may say otherwise. Organizations are starving for cash, even the ones that have a lot already, this is way they talk- a lot, so much so that their audience starts to believe they are the only ones out there doing this work. In my opinion if there are organizations or people that you don’t hear much from at all, it’s because they are working to actually help survivors and don’t have time to coordinate or attend speaking events to talk about it. They are doing it. My message isn’t popular and I’m sure not well received by many in this sector but I have seen a lot. I work with survivors that are being kept from moving on because they are trapped in the shelter/trans-housing system of the non profit world making minimum wage and living on food stamps. The cycle must be broken. Let’s put aside the pride that keeps this vicious circle moving and really set survivors free.

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Women And Revolution is a blog designed to raise the issues that are affecting women all over the world while giving it journalistic value. W.A.R is a division of BeaSister2aSister a 501(c)3 non profit that helps survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, exploitation and abuse break the cycle of inter-dependency and become self sustainable. If you would like to learn more you can visit our website at http://www.beasister2asister.org or you can email us at info@beasister2asister.org. If you are interested in seeing women and girls everywhere break free from inter-dependency, please consider donating online as a one time or sustainable donor. We are committed to seeing every woman walk in total freedom.


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