Shannon Galpin, founder of Mountain2Mountain, discusses the The Power of Voice at TEDxMileHighSalon conference.
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Shannon Galpin – Founder of Mountain2Mountain
What is it that you see when you look at this photo? Do you see potential, possibility, a changemaker?
Every day, women like these are forced to beg in the street. Women are raped as weapons of war. Children are taken from their homes and forced into prostitution, and girls are denied an education simply because of their gender.
Atrocities happen all over the world and the sheer numbers of oppression, conflict, genocide are staggering — so staggering in fact that we tune out. Shockingly, the more we hear of atrocities and brutalities happening, the more apathetic and desensitized we become. We pity those people, those victims. Something should be done, but what can I do? And so we tune out, apathy sets in and we remain silent.
But when we can put a face on one individual and use that individual to tell the story of the bigger picture, the bigger problem, people listen. We essentially plug in to the many through the heartbreak of the one and this one has a face. This one has a voice. She is the one of the many victims of self-humiliation. Setting herself on fire to protest, to escape abusive relationships.
But I would challenge you to look beyond the victimhood, beyond the victimization, and consider that perhaps women like these could be solutions. Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Call to Arms: “The world tries to break everyone. Some of us are stronger in the places that were broken.” And given a voice, women and victims around the world could perhaps change the entire perception of victimhood.
Now, I would ask you to look at me. What do you see when you look at me? Do you see an adventurer, an athlete, an activist, a fighter, a mother, a daughter, or do you see a victim? You see, many years ago when I was walking home from work, I was brutally attacked, raped and left for dead. A victim at eighteen.
But I was only one of over 200,000 women raped in the US every year, in this country. That’s one woman every two minutes. Had I believed I was a victim, had my friends and family told me I was a victim, had I’ve been born in a country like Afghanistan, perhaps things would have turned out differently. But in fact I was of the label – victim – the finality of it. Dictating what I would or would not do based on experiences out of my control versus my potential.
But it wasn’t until 13 years later when violence struck my only sister that I decided to risk everything to create a world that was just, where women that are victimized are not destined to be victims. If they had a voice, they could be solutions.
When we look at countries like Afghanistan, this is a picture we often see. I would challenge you to look at the women of Afghanistan, a country that is ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman, multiple years. Do we only see victims or do we see women like Bibi Aisha. Bibi was married at 14 to a Taliban fighter and after four years of abuse she fled. She was caught and her nose and ears were cut off to serve as an example. She didn’t die and she was able to find her way into the care of US forces. And eventually into a safe house in Kabul.
She is one of thousands of victims. But when her face graced the cover of Time magazine, we heard her voice, and through her voice we heard the voices of women throughout Afghanistan. And we understood and listened to the greater problem. Today, Bibi is smiling. Doctors in the US reconstructed her nose and ears, and instead of being labeled a victim for her entire life, you can see her smiling, you can see potential in her face.