Partners In Activism

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It seems simple enough: you discover a problem and feel compelled to take action. You want to help someone, you want to make a difference.

But as we all know, nothing is ever as simple as it first seems.

I may have jumped into the life of an activist without hesitation, but here are three aspects of my work I didn’t consider until after I’d rolled up my sleeves:
Historical Context
The first thing I’ve had to face as an activist is the historical context of my work. I may perceive that there is a single human race, but as a white Western woman working for change in a nation only decades removed from its colonial past, I’ve had to disarm people of the assumption that I am motivated by a savior complex. What fuels me is a sense of connection to the women who work with Sudara; I see us as partners in creating a sea change, and my work is directed by their needs.

Personal Context
In a world full of challenges, why is it that one issue will grab you, one issue will stand out and refuse to let you forget about it? I may never have perceived trafficked women and children with an “us and them” mentality, but my personal connection to the issue of human slavery was unknown even to myself for the first several years of my work. Through prayer and deep reflection, eventually I came to understand why my work on this issue was vital to my own healing and redemption.

Long Term Commitment
So often, we think of community service and “giving back” as an obligation to check off a list: a weekend work project, a service trip over holiday break, and afterwards we get back to life as usual. But meaningful change – in society and in our own lives – comes when we commit ourselves to a long term relationship with people who will leave indelible marks on our hearts.

As a social entrepreneur, I am most inspired by a quote from Lilla Watson, an Australian aboriginal elder who has dedicated her life to being an artist, scholar, and activist for the cause of indigenous rights. In a speech at the United Nations in 1985, Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Follow Shannon Keith:

Founder + CEO, Sudara

Shannon Keith is an abolitionist, speaker, and the CEO of Sudara. Ten years ago, she left her successful career as a corporate sales representative to start a global non-profit, to provide training and jobs for survivors of human trafficking in India.

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