Jaclyn Matfus Harper, Human Rights Activist, Feminist, All-Around Badass, on Bullies, Sex Trafficking, Aiding Refugees and the Labels she’s been Called
ORIGIN: What sets your soul on fire?
Jaclyn Matfus Harper: BULLIES set my soul on hot life-threatening fire. INJUSTICE sets my soul to volcanic extremes. There is nothing more infuriating than people who are in a position of power that exploit those who are vulnerable.
ORIGIN: What labels have been used to describe you and how do you use them for good?
JMH: I have been called headstrong. Stubborn. Overly sensitive.
ORIGIN: Any relating to your body or appearance?
JMH: With regard to my body and appearance, as a young girl I developed early. It made for very uncomfortable attention from boys. I felt ashamed and embarrassed about my body. One can assume this isn’t a
problem. What girl doesn’t want attention from boys? But when you are young and still learning about yourself, your body, and in essence, your identity, that kind of attention is very confusing and degrading.
ORIGIN: How did you transform them?
JMH: I transformed these hurtful feelings by playing sports. I decided young that I was an equal to them and I realized I had to relate in a new way somehow. I wanted to make them my friend as opposed to being seen as an object and treated like a piece of meat. It helped level the playing field and helped them see me as an equal.
ORIGIN: Why is it so important that we empower women + girls right now?
JMH: It’s incredibly important to empower women and girls now more than ever because we are finally being heard in a meaningful way. Having a woman running for office—we have a new platform to stand on. Right now women are realizing more and more their own power through the representation of Hillary Clinton. We will no longer be treated as objects that are replaceable once we reach a certain age; we will be seen as irreplaceable forces to be reckoned with.
ORIGIN: What causes are you passionate about?
JMH: I am very passionate about being an advocate for the boys in the global sex trafficking epidemic. I work with an organization in Calcutta called New Light and have created a home for boys to live and learn a new way of being in the world and relating to girls and women. It’s important to realize that sex trafficking isn’t only a gender issue but a human issue—just as feminism isn’t only a gender issue. The boys I work with in India often have no other example of how to live life than what they see their male figures do: running brothels and selling their wives and daughters. Giving them a home to feel safe in and new examples of how to live their lives allows us to get deeper in this epidemic. Sex trafficking is a systemic problem. Helping the boys become great men is preventive medicine to this crisis.
Jaclyn Matfus Harper is currently working on a show for PBS called Humanity on the Move. This new initiative was designed to meet the overwhelming and urgent challenge of the global refugee crisis using a multi-platform media and communication campaign to change negative attitudes and reshape perceptions of refugee children and families. Check out the trailer for Humanity on the Move on Facebook.