400 Days

Just over four years ago I became actively involved in advocacy, specifically LGBT rights advocacy.

Just over two years ago I became actively involved in gender equality advocacy.

Just under a year ago I aggressively took on the issue of sexual violence.

I am now on my way out of activism, and I’ve learned that being a part of a movement that is focused on addressing the issue of sexual violence is not easy; it is probably the most difficult kind of activism there is.

For some people, I get a lot of things wrong, some days I wonder if I got anything right.

I continue to disappoint myself (and I suppose others) because I don’t see the change happening, and because this problem of sexual violence sometimes seems insurmountable.

The work is also emotionally draining, and I understand why many people don’t actively do it.

In hindsight, I perhaps should not have taken on this problem. So I’ve decided to give myself 400 more days in this fight, in this movement. I will be criticised for my decision; I’m certain of it.

People will say I don’t care anymore.

People will say I don’t have the stamina and emotional fortitude for the work – this, this would be true.

But I do hope that those who will criticize my decision to give up, and those who will say I don’t care anymore, and those who do have the stamina and emotional fortitude needed to do this much needed work, will step up and do much of what I couldn’t do, and much of what needs to be done.

There is a certain kind of perfection that is expected of you as an activist.

You are often not allowed to be human.

You are not allowed to have personal distance from the survivors who need you, even if it’s to keep your sanity.

You are not allowed to care for self if it means you can’t be there enough for all the survivors who may need you.

You are not allowed to say no because you’ve said yes so many times that you are now almost at the proverbial ‘burn out’.

You are not allowed to slow down because you’ve always been known to go hard, sleep less, and do more.

You are not allowed.

Because for some, once you say you are doing this work to end sexual violence against women and children, once you say you are a part of this movement, you are expected to be a saviour for all survivors who may cross your path.

So I have learned to accept the criticisms and live with the narrative that many may now have of me because I am going soft, sleeping more, and doing less.

My 400 more days will be spent doing the best I can with the little experience, wisdom and expertise I have. And if I can inspire hope and be there, be really present for 10 survivors over these 400 days, I will retire alright; I will retire happy and healthy and grateful.

And for everything I may have gotten wrong, it is my hope that I can get it right for 10 survivors.

Before I go, I ask of you, all of you, to never forget the humanity in activists. Don’t place the burden of change on their shoulders only. Please. Activism is not easy. And activists want to be healthy and happy too. Allow them to breathe. More often than not, they are doing the best they can do in their bid to make life even just a little better for the lives they touch.

 

 

One thought on “400 Days

  1. This post is so relevant, not just for activism but for everyone involved in any kind of human rights work. Anyone who tries to make the world better, not because they’re getting paid to do it, but because they genuinely care and want to help others. They say no good deed goes unpunished and it’s true. It’s the ones who care that get run into the ground.

    I support your decision because it seems to be the best one for your mental health. And I think you are so brave for taking a step toward what is best for your even if it might incur disappointment and anger. If scaling back your involvement is no longer an option, then by all means do what you need to do. The world of activism has benefited so much from your work, but perhaps it is time someone(s) else took up the heavy, heavy mantle.

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