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September 12, 2012

Moving Towards Critical Mass

Over the past year and a half, those of us involved in Move to End Violence, a program of the NoVo Foundation, have worked together to think critically about the movement to end violence against women and girls. We’ve examined the history of the movement, its present condition, and envisioned what a future without violence would look like - a future that we commonly refer to as “the Beloved Community.”

It has been a wonderful and insightful journey. We have looked inward at our own efforts, traveled thousands of miles to learn about the work of others, and processed how we might move our communities to a new, more active state of change. We’ve asked ourselves “How might we build a thriving movement? Who continues to be marginalized in our own efforts? How might we organize a national network of motivated leaders to make the necessary “pivot” in the current movement?” And perhaps more importantly, we each have had to ask ourselves “With this new vision, what is my role in the next phase of the movement to end violence against women and girls?”

Finding My Place in the Movement

“I(we) alone cannot change the world, but I(we) can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”― Mother Teresa

This past July, I traveled to Los Angeles as one of several trainers for an empowerment conference for 40-50 adolescent young women who were survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). They were but a handful of adolescent girls receiving services as DMST survivors in L.A. county, and each one had volunteered to participate in the conference to learn what it means to be a leader.

As usual, I was blown away and amazed by the wisdom and strength of the young women sitting before me. They did not sit idol as I dispersed information to them about “how to be a good advocate.”  They asked the hard questions, analyzed the circumstances of their lives and communities, and challenged us to look beyond what we thought were the primary issues affecting this young and vulnerable population. And, by the end of the conference, they were ready to fully participate as organizers and trainers for the next annual conference. Clearly, they are our future leaders – they simply are fierce, when given the chance.

Paying It Forward

This is not my first experience with such amazing young women. I have met them in various U.S. cities, communities in Uganda, and in the streets of India. And in each case, I have reaffirmed my place in the movement to end violence against women and girls. It simply is to “pay it forward.” To relay information and lessons learned (much of which I was reminded of as a Move to End Violence cohort member) to our next generation of leaders – especially to those who are too often forgotten and at times alienated from our current movement. They are our “last girls” and our future agents of change. And as I teach one, they will teach another – until we reach that necessary tipping point of a far more inclusive critical mass.

Art by lizar_tistry