As part of our Advocacy Week Celebration, we are blogging daily, focusing on a different theme of Advocacy each day. Today, advocates from the organizations Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services (DVAS), NewStory Center and Umbrella spoke to us about the topic of empowerment.
To Keri Darling, from DVAS, empowerment means, “To have a choice, to be able to make a decision, regardless if right or wrong but it’s their decision and their choice. To be given the means to achieve something, make them stronger, more confident and ready to take control of their life.” This theme of freedom of choice as empowerment shows up daily in the work of advocates across the state in their work with survivors. For Henekis at Umbrella, “Empowerment is the base of what we do. The focus on empowerment is really critical to our framework and philosophical understanding of advocacy and activism. So much of what we are up against are the ways that humans are disempowered and silenced.”
Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability that goes hand in hand with the courage to speak your truth. Advocates bear witness to this vulnerability and courage every day in their work with survivors. Bianca spoke to this in her interview saying, “There’s such vulnerability in [telling your story], but that’s also where empowerment comes from. I feel very honored and privileged to bear witness to it regularly and that’s what I find so fulfilling- to see that shift in my work at NewStory and with survivors. It’s really powerful.”
All four of the advocates we spoke to felt like empowerment was foundational to their work as an advocate but that sometimes it was hard to see that light between the trees. When asked, “What is one thing you wish everyone knew about empowerment?”, Beth from Clarina responded, “That it is attainable for everybody. We’re in a world where there’s so much oppression, and for those people that are feeling beaten down, to know that they still have power. Though the world is difficult right now, there are those glimmers of hope. I say to almost everyone I work with ‘If the day may seem too long or overwhelming what does the next minute look like?’ Moving through that time period may give you an opportunity to get back on that path to your authentic self.”
Today, as we think about empowerment both professionally and personally, ask yourself- what is your glimmer of hope? What fuels you to keep showing up to do this work? (Please respond with your answer if you feel moved to!)