Donna Harati

Donna Harati (Women in Black in Serbia): Donna spent the 2007 and 2008 summers working in Zambia with Project Concern International, and helping a peer mediation program for at risk youth in Zambian schools. Donna also taught English in Mauritius through Learning Enterprises. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing a degree in Cultural Politics with a focus on social justice from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. While at university, she also worked with incarcerated adults and court adjudicated youth through Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice. After her fellowship, Donna wrote: “I was faced with questions I did not know even existed. If my experience in Serbia taught me anything, it was that being complacent is simply not an option.”


27 Jul

Activism is one of those words that usually conjures strong images in the minds of those who hear it. The word is often associated with protests, marches, demonstrations, strikes, slogans, and chants. Of course, every thing I just listed most definitely constitutes very important forms of activism, but my time at WIB has taught me that activism is far more nuanced and personal than the most oft-cited examples of the word. From our interviews I’ve learned that most WIB members do not define their activism by particular actions they have taken but rather by the state of mind they inhabit and by the approach they take to the world around them.

The five minute video below will allow you to hear these views first hand, but one of my favorite articulations of activism as an all-encompassing approach to life comes from Svencka, a socio-linguistics professor in the town of Novi Sad who explained that she is an activist because she uses her professional position in academia as a means of dismantling patriarchy in our everyday language. Some might fail to consider her an activist because she is not marching and chanting against patriarchy every day, but this simplistic notion of activism fails to realize that people like Svencka act to bring social change in more subtly subversive ways. Being here has really helped me define what activism means to me and what kind of an activist I would like to strive to be throughout my life. I hope the video below will prompt you to think about what activism means to you.


The very last comment in the video is perhaps not the most uplifting, but I chose to end the video with those words because to me, they portray the very real dilemmas of those who approach activism as a constant, all-encompassing endeavor. Such an approach is draining, especially when the changes one is working toward seem distant and unlikely to occur. Women In Black activists have been going strong since 1991, but it’s important to consider the emotional toll such work can take.

Posted By Donna Harati

Posted Jul 27th, 2009


  • David

    July 27, 2009



  • iain

    July 29, 2009


    “I’ve learned that most WIB members do not define their activism by particular actions they have taken but rather by the state of mind they inhabit and by the approach they take to the world around them.” I need some time to think about this, and digest your video. Does it mean that they do NOT set themselves specific goals to accomplish? if so, that’s a very different view from donors and most others in our goal-oriented world! Challenging idea, but very interesting.

  • Donna Harati

    July 29, 2009


    Hi Iain,
    As an organization, WIB definitely sets specific goals that it wants to accomplish. For example, one of their main campaigns revolves around pressuring the government to officially commemorate Srebrenica on July 11th and to bring Ratko Mladic to justice. However, I think that on an individual level, many network members define their activism as much more than just participating in particular actions to achieve those goals. As Dragan said in the video, it’s not about getting your three lines of activism on your CV. Those goals exist, and they are fundamental, but I think that fighting for those goals has caused a lot of the individuals in WIB to develop a more personal definition of what activism means to them. Their activism begins to seep into every part of their lives, and it becomes a way of viewing the world in addition to a means to an end. I hope my interpretation makes sense.

  • nose

    August 1, 2009


    I wish there was a better word to substitute for “activism’,the like that WIB are engaged in. This word has been used and abused by groups (e.g. some animal rights groups) to destroy laboratories,commit arsons,threaten or injure scientists and forestall scientific progress for both human and animal welfare. In some peoples’ mind activism and anarchy are synonymous. I think WIB,through peaceful advocacy( I like this word better)are demonstrating that activism is not, and should not,be equated with destructiveness. Thank you for bringing this subject up to the front. Your blogs are highly intelligent,stimulating and thought provoking. I wish you great success.

  • Owen

    August 4, 2009


    I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with using the word activism. Just think of the opposite – inactivism. I think that leaves scope for a pretty wide variety of way of interpreting activism and having an input into the world we live in and the world we would like to see.

  • Donna Harati

    August 4, 2009


    Hi Owen,
    Although I agree with some of the points that “nose” raises in his comment, I am definitely not advocating for us to stop using the term “activism”. Rather, as you mention in your comment, I hope that we can broaden the scope in terms of how we interpret activism. I think it’s important to recognize that activism can consist of much more than stereotypical conceptions of what the word stands for. Broadening our interpretation of activism can lead to a more developed and effective approach to activism. Thanks for the comment!

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