This is a guest post by Kerrie Kauer.
This month I am grateful to be collaborating with Jillian Roth, visionary for Jillybeads 4 Justice, a unique company that educates, advocates, and creates beautiful art for social justice causes. Jillian and I met in graduate school at the University of Tennessee in 2004, and shared a passion for creating social change, particularly around the empowerment of girls and women in sport. Eight years later, we are connecting again around our shared passion for social justice advocacy, and I couldn’t be more delighted!
During the month of October, I am part of Jillian’s “Challenge Month,” which will highlight Off The Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva as an organization Jillybeads 4 Justice is showing extra LOVE to from Monday, October 1 – Wednesday, October 31 by doing the following:
– Donating $5 from each piece sold;
– Offering free shipping on all custom orders; and
– Giving Voice to the Cause through a guest post on the J4J blog.
In addition, Off The Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva will be one of the three international “Featured Organizations” that customers can select to have their $10 donation go to with the purchase of each piece. As Jillian sees it, “It’s the kind of win-win we at Jillybeads 4 Justice strive towards—a piece of jewelry is sold and great work is supported!”
My work with Off The Mat, Into the World (OTM) has unfolded over the last two years and began with a 5-day leadership intensive. I had experienced a great deal of personal transformation through my own yoga practice, and I was particularly drawn to OTM’s politics and advocacy around social justice issues. While many non-profits often serve to reproduce paternalistic and imperialist agendas, particularly in developing nations, I saw the philosophy of OTM replicating a strong transnational feminist and social justice framework that worked with communities, and instead of for communities. My background in social justice education and feminist research prepared me for the intellectual work I do, but OTM has prepared me for the activist work in an entirely different way. I learned to feel sources of injustice in a more embodied way and work through some of my own tensions that wasn’t serving my activism (or research) very well. I have been taught to think critically about organizations, albeit sport or other non-profits, that enter into communities thinking soccer or basketball is a panacea for the injustices or poverty these communities face. OTM is not that organization, and they recognize that yoga, as a physical practice, is just a piece of the puzzle. They value the reciprocal relationship between personal transformation and social action; the core of this imbedded in Patanjali’s first two limbs of the 8-limbed path of yoga where the yamas (personal restraints) and niyamas (social observances) do not act in isolation of one another.
I feel confident in the work that OTM is doing, so much so that I recently became part of the Global Seva Challenge to raise awareness and funds around the issue of sex trafficking. As part of the Global Seva Challenge, I am charged with raising $20,000 that will go to sustainable efforts for six organizations in India. Many of these organizations are working with survivors of the sex trafficking industry through education, healing movement, micro-financing, and policy change. While the Global Seva Challenge will directly impact survivors in India, the awareness created around this issue can cross international borders, and speaks to a broader volume of cultural, economic, and gender injustices that are occurring worldwide. 100% of the money I raise will go directly to 6 different grassroots organizations (See here: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/indiapartners.html) that are currently working with survivors of sex trafficking. OTM has partnered with amazing organizations that are already at the forefront of this issue and are working to make a difference.
According the Trafficking in Persons report, over 2 million children are subjected to the global commercial sex trade; “Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death.” This is a global social justice issue, but for me I also see this a feminist issue. Approximately 80% of those trafficked are girls and women. While some women in the west have experienced equality on some fronts, I am reminded of Audre Lorde’s reflection that, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Off The Mat, Into The World embodies this quote; recognizing that we are all connected and the unity among us can be our greatest strength. I must recognize that I am those women and girls who are enslaved, and that my own liberation as a woman is bound up with the liberation of other women and girls around the globe, even if their circumstances look entirely different than my own.
I am honored to collaborate with Jillian on this project, and know that a deep level of love and commitment to social justice is manifested through her art. Each piece holds her intention and energy around making difference, so buying her jewelry is a win-win for you too!
Check out Jillybeads 4 Justice’s Fall Collection here!!!