Where to Start When You Don't Know Where to Start
Almost six and a half years ago, when I first started to advocate against human trafficking, I had a lot of questions. I still feel like I’m in that place sometimes. There are days when I feel much more inadequate now then I did back then, and I have many more questions than I do answers at times. So from one fellow advocate to another, here are some tried and true tactics to tackle the tangled mess that is human trafficking.
Start Out Small:
The fact is, human trafficking is a huge problem. There is child trafficking, sex-trafficking, labor trafficking, child soldiers, prostitution, pornography, and the list keeps going. Where in the world do you start?
One thing that helped me when I first started advocating was that I only focused on sex-trafficking, specifically prostitution. I learned about international sex-trafficking, and then about the local trafficking in my hometown. After that I moved into learning more about labor-trafficking in the fashion industry, and recently I have been doing a lot of digging into the facts on pornography. This process took time. Modern slavery is not a simple or small problem, it takes time to learn and understand and for things to change. It takes time to research -- taking the information in smaller packages is one way to be able to fully digest and come to grips with the harsh realities of trafficking. Focus on one area of study so you don’t become overwhelmed, traumatized, or desensitized by what you are learning.
The point is not about where you start in your research, or how much you are able to do. The point is that you start at all.
Don’t Be Afraid to GO BIG:
This might seem a bit contrary to the previous point, but bear with me. Starting small allows time for you to grow, learn, and become confident in your ability to share about human trafficking and advocacy with others. But, if (and when) the opportunity presents itself to do something more, go for it!
The first day of Dressember in 2013, I was the only person I knew participating. A few days later there were eleven girls who had joined in standing with me against human trafficking as we partnered across three different states. By the end of the month we got to share our hearts with friends and family as we showed a documentary and led a discussion afterwards. Through this, we were able to offer further advocacy opportunities. I didn’t plan those things from the beginning, but the opportunity presented itself, so I went for it!
Look for People to Partner With:
That first year, I was planning on doing Dresember by myself, but believe me when I say, it is so much more fun with a partner or two. It is so important to find a community of people who not only support the things you are passionate about, but are willing to do crazy things with you! I wouldn’t be writing for this blog if I hadn’t been encouraged and joined by friends and family in pursuit of advocating against modern slavery. And with today’s benefit of social media, these communities of support don’t have to be near you.
There have been times when I have found myself trying to sound really professional and knowledgeable in conversations. While I want to know what I’m talking about, I also want to make sure that I’m doing it in a way that is authentic to me.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to sacrifice who you are in order to be a good advocate, and it is not your responsibility to make the people you share with act on the knowledge you gave them. Your unique personality is what can remind people that this is a genuine passion of yours, and one well-worth fighting for. The people that I have been the most inspired by in my own advocacy walk has been those who simply shared what was important to them in their own way and made no apology for that.
It is one thing to share facts with people. It’s another to tell them a story. Stories are a powerful, tangible and real way for us to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and imagine what another’s life is like. When we tell personal stories about human trafficking and our own advocacy experiences, we are helping to bridge the gap between the theoretical and reality. To tell people about the facts of human trafficking is to make them more knowledgeable. To share a story is to add humanity back into the equation, and the results are often much more encouraging than we could have imagined.
Don’t Stop Learning:
No matter what road-bumps and rough patches you run into along the way, never stop learning. There is always another story out there, another statistic that gives motivation to keep going. Always continue to learn, through podcasts, TED talks, documentaries, books, websites, and more. The options are endless.
Never give up the fight. Whether a little or a lot, your contribution and advocacy matters and is helping to bring dignity to every man, woman and child affected by human trafficking.
This one is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember. Never giving up can mean late nights, real pain and tears, compassion fatigue, feeling alone, and becoming numb and desensitized to the horrific stories and effects of modern day slavery.
You are not alone. And you can’t give up. We can’t give up. If we will not be the voice for the voiceless, who will be?
Keep your chins up - fellow Dressember warriors. This battle is one worth the pain, one worth being battered and pained for. This one is worth the fight.
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About the Author
Amanda Kinney is a recent graduate of The Master’s University and calls Southern California home. She enjoys long walks, rain, photography, and all things peppermint. On a daily basis she can be found eating vegan food and talking with her peers about ethical issues. She is enthusiastic about joining the Dressember team and plans on being a lifelong advocate against slavery.