Over the course of my work in the human rights and development sectors, I have always struggled with what my role was exactly. Was I a human rights activist? A development professional? A supporter of ‘real’ activist that were doing the actual ‘work’? Was I the over-privileged person who was able to build a career out of misery of others? Was I the genuinely supportive technical colleague for my colleagues in countries I went for support? Was I really an expert in my different areas of work ( or was I a fraud)? Or simply an ally, a coach, a friend who tried to make things better for others and enjoys collaboration? Or a globetrotter with altruistic and non-altruistic motives to ‘do good’ and ‘feed my travel bug’ at the same time?
I think in a way I have lived all of these roles, even when I did not perceive them myself as such. It’s hard to acknowledge my role not always being as useful, but I questioned myself more fundamentally many times, does the work that I do make sense? And it’s even harder to acknowledge how my ego plays a role in answering this question,. Because, well, it would like to think it does.
‘Doing good’ ranks high on the morality ladder for many. Traveling to strange places, well you do get a lot of positive feedback on this, as being interesting, cool, sometimes even brave etc. Both in a way build up my status as an ‘interesting’ person and has come with giving me ‘valuable’ experience, or so it seems. It is flattering, when people ‘see you this way’ or give you credit and merit based on that you seem to be doing good.
Corona of course changed a lot, in terms of travel. Having a kid even more. My travel gene is still there, but it itches less and while I’ve just taken my son to see the country of his father and therefore also his country, my freedom to really travel is over. Which is fine, both from my own experience and my long overdue climate debt.
But it still leaves open this question: who am I as a person and professional? More precise, what role should I be playing in a system which I have come to realize, thanks through the work of many of the activist and development professionals that I admire, is unjust and needs a long overdue make-over to ensure we really work to an inclusive, racially just and authentic power balanced world?
I don’t have a real answer to this, but I finally feel I have something to say which can support the many activist out there and that is rekindling or awakening in me the confidence to speak up, let my voice be heard on issues that matter. While my role might not have been a 100% altruistic or at times questionable, I can acknowledge now the power I have to use it as an activist and speak up for what is right. And most of all start doing things right.