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APRIL 12, 2015
Embrace Dignity When you think of dignity, what comes to mind?
By Ariana Manley Ariana is a spoken word poet hailing from Philadelphia, PA. She believes in the power of poetry to speak truth to her lived experiences, to “shed light” on injustices, and to “be a mouthpiece for those who are silenced.”
When you think of dignity, what comes to mind? Is it reputation? Respect? Maybe it's wealth? Dignity is something we all value, something we like to claim as our own, but how do you reclaim dignity once it's taken from you? As one of the six Curtis Scholars, I had the opportunity of traveling to Cape Town, South Africa. While abroad, we met with several NGOs - one was called Embrace Dignity. My experience has forever impacted me as it reinforced a greater affirmation that as a young woman, I am part of a larger, more resilient community. In South Africa, many women and young girls are thrown into the world of sex trafficking and sex work, leaving them shunned by both their families
and communities. Regardless of whether or not these women were forced into sex work, they are automatically looked down upon and are subjected to victim blaming. Burdens of this industry linger far beyond the time of assault in the form of mental trauma and/or the contraction of HIV. This is where Embrace Dignity steps in. This NGO helps women in South Africa acquire jobs to provide an opportunity to support themselves in alternative jobs roles than the sex industry they are escaping. Upon meeting everyone at Embrace Dignity, we sat around a table and engaged in a critical thinking activity. In pairs of two, we read personal stories from girls and women that ended up in sex work. We were then led into another room and based on the stories we read, had to try and identify the women. As I stood and scanned images of women, of all different ages, and could have never imagined all the hardships they had to endure. The stories of these women project such determination and strength which inspires everyone who listens. Later, we were introduced to a woman named Grizelda GrootBroom. She is a mother, author and sex trafficking survivor. She told us about her personal memoir, ‘Exit,’ in which she discusses not only her experience, but her convictions. Grizelda narrated her journey towards self healing as well as her goals in moving forward in life. As she shared her story, I was blown away by her strength and poignant memories. The way her voice remained unwavered by emotion showed power. Grizelda’s story–just like so many other women and young girl’s narratives–is crucial to empowering the gender equality movement as it inspires others, just like myself, to continue and mobilize as we strive to provide opportunities to women and young girls worldwide.
Visit to Embrace Dignity and talk by Grizelda Grootboom