Last February I was privileged to be part of the Global Voices Exchange gathering in Marseille and I spent an intense week with an amazing group of powerful women from the global south. Coming from different backgrounds and contexts we explored together different formats to produce content that will help us and many other activists/ advocates like us to succeed in building campaigns and movements. Personally, there was something inspiring about this exchange, something about bringing women from different countries, different experiences, who fight a number of different adversaries, nevertheless have this understanding that our fight for justice and equality in many ways are similar whether we are an activist or an advocate.
What struck me most was the common thread of burnout and how little we tend to talk about this phenomenon. A reality that almost every activist and advocate will feel in their lifetime and is something I wanted to address in this blogpost. The idea for this blogpost came about when I was having a conversation with one of the participants over breakfast, right before I was about to head to the airport, we talked about how self preservation sometimes needs to take priority because by protecting and preserving ourselves, we protect others and at the end of the day surviving through this all is our form of resistance.
Over the years I’ve spent some time researching online activism in the Arab world and advocating for freedom and justice in Palestine. Throughout those years I came to realize that there is a considerable high burnout rate amongst the activists in the region, after intense and risky campaigns activists tended to need some time away from the field. I also realized that many bloggers and activists dropped out of cyberspace over time for a number of reasons which came to represent some form of burnout and fatigue. Burnout is also something that I came to recognize as well while working with Palestinian activists in Palestine and abroad, particularly after campaigns that don’t achieve the goals that the group had set out. I also came to recognize the different stages of burnout and that it occurred in cycles. These realizations made me strive to recognize my own limitations and to develop different self-care routines that would ensure that I can continue the work that I do.
Spending that week in Marseille with an inspiring group of activists it became apparent to me that we need to spend more time amongst activists and advocates to talk about burnout, self-care and also holistic security. It’s important to acknowledge that this happens and within some contexts more frequently and while there is a lot of literature and research that covers burnout within movements there are additional materials and online tools that address this matter such as:
Sometimes it could be as simple as recognizing your own needs on daily basis, this tool/ guide can help: You feel like shit . This is a a great group activity worth doing.
I hope by addressing this issue in this post that more and more people become aware of the need to address it and that self-preservation becomes part of our consciousness as people trying to fight for equality and justice.