Katherina Toews is an avid blogger, serious book hoarder, cookie baker, and strong woman of justice. The 21-year-old Canadian kindly took time to chat with us about her life, and her work with Dressember.
Katherina is from the bitterly cold city of Calgary, Alberta. Having just spent a month traveling Germany, she describes her home as her favorite place to be. Spending time away from Calgary gave Katherina a renewed sense of gratefulness for this city she lives and works in. She claims her favorite thing about her hometown is the Stampede, an annual week-long rodeo in the Summertime. Katherina explains she views it as a week during which wearing plaid and cowboy boots is socially acceptable everywhere you go. For equestrian Katherina, this garb is ideal! In fact, she works year-round at a camp and retreat center called Camp Evergreen, where she is a wrangler. Her days are spent training, riding and caring for horses, and teaching others to ride them. She describes herself as being generally covered in horse hair, mud, and hay, or layers (and layers) of warm clothing. Despite the discomfort, she explains anything related to horses is her favorite.
But horses are not Katherina’s only passion. Along with her work at camp, Katherina is involved with an organization that provides help and exit strategies for women involved in prostitution. Through this experience, Katherina has gained knowledge about sexual exploitation. Most importantly, she has come to the devastating realization that many are blind to the reality of trafficking and exploitation. To Katherina, it is not only unacceptable that so many individuals are trapped in trafficking situations, but also that people fail to talk about it. She highlights the importance of overcoming the stigma surrounding sexual exploitation.
Two years ago, one of Katherina’s friends from Bible College told her about Dressember. She began researching into the organization and felt as though she had found a space and team that she could partner with to spread knowledge about human trafficking. In December 2017, she decided to participate as an advocate. This proved to be an amazing way to engage others in dialogue about trafficking. When asked about her first Dressember experience, Katherina explains: “Being an advocate provided me with opportunities to bring up the work of modern abolitionist groups and open people’s eyes to what was happening in their own city… all because they would ask me why I was wearing a dress in the middle of winter!”
To many, braving the Canadian cold in a dress would be viewed as an insurmountable barrier. Katherina, however, took on the challenge with grace and boldness, raising over 500 dollars in her first Dressember experience. For this enthusiastic thrift-store hunter, wearing dresses all month was nowhere as challenging as coordinating these dresses with her winter boots! She expresses her thankfulness for an unusually warm December but is prepared for whatever below-freezing weather she might face next Dressember.
“Being an advocate provided me with opportunities to bring up the work of modern abolitionist groups and open people’s eyes to what was happening in their own city… all because they would ask me why I was wearing a dress in the middle of winter!”
In February 2018, Katherina began an editorial internship with Dressember. She views this experience as another opportunity to spread knowledge about trafficking and the work that Dressember and its partners do. Her ultimate hope is to write in such a way to help inspire advocacy and boldness in the fight for freedom.
When asked to share a piece of advice with future Dressember advocates, Katherina claims, “Don’t discount the value of your voice. Even if you’re only able to talk to one person, that’s one more person who now knows about human trafficking and can join the fight against it. You don’t have to get hundreds of likes on your pictures or raise thousands of dollars to have an impact. Reaching out and speaking up right where you are is all that you need to do, because it only takes a tiny pebble to create hundreds of ripples.”
“Don’t discount the value of your voice. Even if you’re only able to talk to one person, that’s one more person who now knows about human trafficking and can join the fight against it."
Speaking up for what is true, right and just is evidently important to Katherina. She quotes speaker Ruthie Lindsey: “If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it!” The beauty and dignity of each person is at the heart of Katherina’ s passion for survivors of human trafficking. Whether we are at work in the city, traveling far from home, or on a horse in the Albertan countryside, this ought to inspire every one of us to speak up, too.
About the Author
Jess, a proud Montrealer, is an International Development major at McGill University, minoring in Communications and World Religions. You can find her reading a book in a coffee shop, planning a trip to a new city or laughing with her loved ones. Her passion for social justice issues has inspired her work in nonprofit organizations both at home and in the developing world.