“I will raise my voice:” Katherina’s why
“Why are you talking about an issue that doesn’t even happen in our country?”
“There’s no way that you’ll ever be able to make a real difference - you should stop.”
“You’re making people uncomfortable when you talk about that.”
These are all things that people have said to me during my advocacy journey. After having so many people telling you to stop talking about something as volatile as human trafficking, it can be hard to remember why you’re even fighting in the first place. It’s in moments like these that I have to take a step back and remember why I’m an advocate.
I advocate because there are so many people who don’t realize that this injustice is happening right in their cities and neighbourhoods. I speak from personal experience, because for a long time I was completely unaware of human trafficking. And even once I had heard about it, I didn’t think too much about it because there was no way that it was happening in Calgary, my hometown. As I continued through school, my youth group went on several inner-city missions trips, and it was there that I came face-to-face with the stark reality that human trafficking and prostitution do, in fact, happen in my hometown.
Then in 2017, I started working with Next Step Ministries, an organization that helps women exit prostitution in Calgary by providing them with a place to live, and classes where they can process what happened to them, as well as learn life skills. During their time in the program, the women live in houses provided by Next Step so that they can experience what “normal” life is like, and I got the amazing opportunity to live in one of the houses with those women for four months. While most of the healing and processing happens in the classroom, seeing the women open up and become more confident at home was the tangible evidence of a positive change in their lives.
It was during that time that my heart was split open for people affected by sexual exploitation. Seeing the places of hurt that they came from broke my heart, but what impacted me the most was seeing the redemptive processes take effect in their lives as they continued in the program. These women who were affected by human trafficking and sexual exploitation have such resilience, and are capable of turning their pain into freedom and hope. The resolve and dedication of the women that I lived with for those four months inspired me to advocate boldly against human trafficking and to speak up about the abolitionist movement.
I advocate because there can never be too many people talking about such an important topic. I find that all too often people are afraid to talk about the hard topics such as human trafficking, sexual assault, and the harmful effects of pornography, because they are afraid of upsetting people or making them uncomfortable. However, in my experience, I’ve found that if you’re making people uncomfortable, then you’re probably doing something right. We need to talk about the hard topics, otherwise, there will never be change. We need to have the uncomfortable conversations, otherwise, no one will ever learn about these issues. I no longer want to say, “I don’t need to talk about this because someone else will.” I want to be the voice that talks about the hard topics. I want to be the person that speaks about what our culture would rather hide away. I want to be the reason that even just one person joins the battle against human trafficking.
I advocate to shine a light in the darkness and to show others that we often attribute more power to the darkness than it actually has. The reason why atrocities such as human trafficking continue in our world is that society has yet to realize that if we were all to join together and speak up about trafficking and fight against it, we would remove the power that traffickers have. There are amazing people who are fighting this war, and if all I ever get to be is a voice in the battle cry - I’m happy with that. That means that at least I cared enough to add my voice to the chorus.
I advocate for the women that I have met and love, who have been victims of sexual exploitation, but can now call themselves victorious over their oppressors. It’s not always an easy path that we walk as advocates, but it’s a necessary one. So, every time people tell me to stop talking or to quit while I’m ahead, I remember all of the reason why I’m an advocate, and I let those be the fuel for my fire and the push I need to keep fighting.
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Katherina Toews sees the world mostly from between the ears of a horse, and wouldn’t want it any other way. She believes that there is nothing that can’t be fixed by sharing tea, chocolate chip cookies, and a good black and white movie with friends. Katherina is currently the Head Wrangler at a year-round camp and retreat centre, teaching people about horses and helping them to overcome their fears.