CK Insights

March 12, 2018

Women Who Inspire Us: Sr. Joan Dawber, SC, LifeWay Network

Anne Green

Sr. Joan S. Dawber, SC has been engaged full-time in working to abolish human trafficking for over a decade. Since LifeWay Network was founded in 2007, her focus as the Executive Director has been establishing safe housing for human trafficking survivors in the New York area and educating the general public on the important issues regarding modern day slavery.


As a member of the Board of Directors for LifeWay Network, I was thrilled to honor Joan as a woman who inspires me. And I have no doubt others will be equally inspired by the thoughts she shares below.


CooperKatz (CK): What is your favorite thing about the work you do today? 


Sr. Joan Dawber, SC (JD): To bring dedicated women together to work to end Human Trafficking; women from different countries, cultures, religious traditions and diverse, socio-economic life experience. We come together to work and live in a shared community, but most of all we listen to each other and learn from one another. This is the essence of true collaboration – we come together in a spirit of mutuality and make a difference.  


(CK): What accomplishment in your life and career makes you the most proud? 


(JD): I left my home and country in 1978 to join the Sisters of Charity Halifax – women I had met while living and working in Bermuda. Their particular focus was to work with people experiencing poverty, especially women and children. I was drawn to this mission. As a Sister of Charity, a major accomplishment has been to collaborate with other women who share these values and to establish a not-for-profit organization to promote freedom and healing for women survivors of human trafficking. We work to create opportunities for survivors to become Strong, Connected and Free.  


(CK): Who are the women you admire most, and why?  


(JD): I have to begin with my mother, a woman who had a difficult childhood, who cared for her sisters when her mother died, and who lived through World War II. She married at the end of the war and raised six children alone after my father died at an early age. She was a strong woman with integrity, a deep faith and a good sense of humor. She believed education would better the lives of her children. She encouraged us to leave home to spread our wings and become independent persons.  


A woman who inspires me in the human trafficking movement is Ruchira Gupta.  She is a sex-trafficking activist whose organization, Apne Aap, is working to end sex-trafficking in India.  Ruchira is a journalist and founded Apne Aap with the help of prostituted women who learned to trust her and wanted to organize something to educate their daughters. In a conversation with Ruchira recently, she said, “We called the organization Apne Aap, because it means self-action in Hindi. We didn’t have any consultants, we didn’t have any donors, we didn’t even know how to write a business plan.” 


This exactly how women work to bring change to their lives and the world. I am inspired. 


(CK): What do you hope to see from – or for – the next generation of female leaders?  


(JD): Female leaders need to understand that our leadership is not the same as the leadership that has been considered the norm. It is no longer the hierarchical model of the past, but rather a collaborative, team-driven leadership. Intuitively we know that each person has something of great value to contribute, which brings about something greater than the sum of its parts.    


(CK): Is there a particular piece of advice or insight that you would like to share with young women, as they consider their future paths and opportunities?  


(JD): Don’t take for granted all the hard won opportunities for women. Women still have a very long way to go.  Work “with” rather than in competition against other women leaders. This can be quite difficult because we still operate in the old, competitive model which separates rather than seeks creative pathways to join together.   


(CK): Many highly difficult issues still confront women around the world. In the face of challenges that can sometimes feel overwhelming or intractable, what offers you the most hope or inspiration for women’s collective future?  


(JD): The #MeToo movement and the healing and freedom that is moving women to claim their personal dignity and believe in themselves.


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