Efficacy vs. Empowerment.

Aug 21, 2018

If you were to ask me, ‘What is the hardest part of your work?’ I would answer, probably along with many of those who support people who have experienced trauma and times of multiple vulnerability, ‘When women find it hard to take up what is offered to them.’ I have often heard the phrase, ‘She just isn’t ready.’ Actually, I’ve used that phrase myself (just being honest!). At Beyond the Streets we reflect on the ways it is possible to put people in boxes just by our throw away phrases and recently our team agreed to cut that one out of conversations.
Not ready for what? Could it just be that I have meant to listen, collaborate, come alongside, encourage and ‘empower,’ to increase women’s efficacy but that sometimes, I might have set a bar where one wasn’t requested and then wondered why someone didn’t jump up to it? Could it be that the more experience I have gained, the more I see that I don’t have all the answers?
So, recently, one woman said on the phone, “What I think is really good is that talking to you didn’t make me jump on the first solution which wouldn’t last and that would have meant starting over in the industry…. I feel that you don’t give me advice but let me work out what I want to do.”  Equally, there are the times when women say, “ No, sorry, I didn’t manage to do that this week.”
‘Efficacy and empowerment’ sit on that list of buzzwords bound up with the third sector culture of needing to prove impact to improve access to funds. There’s the rub. Somehow, we are to make an impact but not forget to leave time and space for people to work out what they actually want to ask for.
So, I have to keep learning to stop and ask myself whether I have given someone that time. That might take longer than the deadline for next years projected figures but at least I know that people don’t feel they need to apologise for letting me down by “not managing to do that this week.

Words by Miriam, who works for Beyond the Streets as the Clinical Lead for Beyond Support – our call back service for women involved in prostitution. She is passionate about people’s tough lives being transformed.
Everyday Beyond Support offers a listening ear to women  as they transition out of the sex industry. It costs us just over £50 for our specialist staff to take a call from a women. Fund our next call by making a gift towards Beyond Support today, or help secure our service by giving regularly.