Chris Linnares, Published January 08 2014
Women's Wisdom: Fargo woman uses talent to empower others
I believe one of the first steps to empowering a woman – including myself – is to enable ourselves to embrace who we truly are and stop believing the lies that define us as less than we were created to be.
The most difficult challenges women face around the world today – like inequality, abuse and slavery – all started with the lie that women simply are not valuable or worth equal rights, opportunities and respect.
One of my favorite books, “Half the Sky,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, illustrates what happens when women who have come from adversity, such as sex trafficking, start believing they are worthy and capable of a better life.
The book highlights many successful stories of women around the world who were empowered to break the chains of slavery and became a force of good for their families and communities.
But we don’t need to travel around the world to find these empowering life stories. Here in our backyard, a young, brilliant and fearless woman refused to conform to the lies our world portrays about women and is changing people’s lives.
Tanya Martineau is using her gifts and the powerful “weapon of love” to help stop sex trafficking and empower women and children who have experienced this atrocity.
Martineau spent almost two years in South Korea, working as an English teacher and photographer.
In her free time, she took photos in the red light district and mentored girls who had been rescued from trafficking.
These experiences fueled her passion to create Unseen Ministries with her videography friend Than Baardson. Unseen Ministries is a Fargo-based media nonprofit that uses the gifts and talents of artists like Martineau and Baardson in the areas of education, photography, videography, writing and design to reveal the mission work of organizations fighting trafficking and poverty.
After serving more than 25 groups in seven nations, Unseen Ministries has seen these groups flourish, becoming stable in their mission financially.
This inspiring pioneer believes that one of the best ways “to defeat the evil is to overcome the lies that prevent women and men from seeing themselves and each other as ‘God sees us.’ ”
I hope today, as we proclaim this year to be a fearless year, we allow Tanya’s wisdom to remain us of who we truly are.
Q: In the story of your life, what was the most challenging moment you needed to overcome?
While living in Korea, I volunteered at a shelter that rescued women trafficked into the sex industry.
One of the rescued Filipina girls became a dear friend of mine. After two years of mentoring her, she did the exact opposite of my counsel and became a male-order bride to a man twice her age.
The feelings of frustration, anger and sadness overcame me knowing she would face injustice once again as a trafficked victim. No matter how much advice and wisdom I poured into her, I felt like a failure as her friend, mentor and freedom advocate.
Q: What empowered you to overcome those challenging moments?
I’ve realized I can’t dictate the choices of others, but all that’s required of me is my response to choose unconditional love.
When I hear about my friend choosing the wrong decision or see all the injustice in the world, I immediately want to fix it. I want to solve the world’s problems.
I know I cannot save the world, but I can change it by using the gift God has given me to the fullest. By showing the other trafficked women that their value goes beyond what’s been done to them or what the culture says about them, that will empower them to fight for themselves.
Q: If you gave the book of your life to your teenage self, what lessons do you wish she’d learn then that you know now?
Understand that you are not valued based on your talents, friendships or what this culture says about you. All that matters is what God says of you.
Dream big and don’t allow others or yourself to limit what you and the Lord can do together.
Care more about who you are becoming than your final destination. Your character, principles and relationships will determine your failures and successes.
Q: How can women best impact the world today?
The first step in changing the world is to put your value and strength in the one that gives it, Jesus Christ. Know you are designed for a purpose. Know your identity, believe in yourself and go after your dream.
Not in saying the thing, or meeting the right people or doing the perfect thing, but embracing all my strengths and weaknesses by living out the fullness of what God says about me.
In today’s culture, there’s an unrealistic pressure on woman to be a certain type of wife, mom, sister, friend and worker at the same time as saving the world. People want to follow someone who is real, vulnerable and confident.
Embrace failure, enjoy the process and believe in yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses. Be teachable and surround yourself with wise mentors that will journey life with you. When you are confident in who you are and not what the world says or thinks, that’s when you become an unstoppable force with no limitations.
When you make pain your power and adversity your friend, that’s when you become untouchable. Love is the most powerful weapon.
Remember, with more influence requires greater sacrifice. But it’s worth it.
Chris Linnares is international author, psychotherapist and founder of Women’s Impact, formerly Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she lives in Fargo with her daughter and husband Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of the Forum. To suggest a woman for this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Linnares’ work, visit www.chrislinnares.com.