An interview with Tara Teng, former Miss World Canada and advocate fighting human trafficking.
Tara Teng, former Miss World Canada, is a force of nature.
Since winning Miss World Canada in 2012, Tara has been fighting gender-based violence and human trafficking. And not just fighting, but actually creating real waves of change.
Tara has been directly involved in getting new laws passed in Canada that help to protect those affected by human trafficking, and has established Canada’s first Municipal Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
She was named Canada’s “Woman of the Year” in 2011, named one of the Globe and Mail’s “Top 25 Most Transformational Canadians,” and has received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal as recognition for her work to end the sexual slavery.
Tara herself seems unstoppable. But changing the world; it seems like such a massive thing. So immense and vague. Where do you even begin? Tara believes it can happen inside the four walls of your home.
A mother of one, with one on the way, Tara shares with Motherly the 5 ways she believes mothers are changing the world, right from our own living rooms—
1. Teaching compassion beyond our own life
Raising children today means raising global citizens for tomorrow. With that huge responsibility comes huge opportunity, and the ability to shape the future.
We can teach our children compassion by helping them to realize that although it may seem that some issues do not effect us directly, we are actually all connected in some way or another.
The food we eat, items we buy, things we participate in, and friends that we have, come from all over the world now. That makes our choices all the more important. In my experience, children are incredibly attuned to justice concepts of fairness and equality, understanding compassion sometimes more easily than we do. We help our son to think and act beyond himself by teaching him the importance of choices; good choices have good rewards for yourself or others while bad choices have bad consequences for yourself or others.
2. Instilling confidence
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of motherhood is raising confident children in a cutthroat world. We must teach our children to be both strong and compassionate, to speak the truth with grace and to stick up for what is right, even when it is hard. Sometimes we do this by allowing our children the freedom to fall, take risks and when necessary, handle rejection with grace. Life will not always be kind to them, but they must learn to be kind to others in all situations. Giving our children challenges to overcome helps them to build confidence in their abilities and the experience to know what to do when they encounter difficult situations.
3. Using the lessons we have learned as mothers to better the world
Parenting is one of those life experiences that teach you a lot about yourself and your world. For me, raising my son is a daily exercise in patience, compassion and my own emotional intelligence. Learning how to communicate these things effectively to my boy or walk him through the process of calming himself down in an emotional situation, will ultimately lead him to becoming a better human being and on the flip side, is giving me greater perspective to understand where others may be coming from, in the board room, at the grocery store and at home. After all, we all benefit from a little extra patience and understanding, right?
4. Embracing diversity
This generation is more connected than ever before and traditional walls that once divided us (i.e. race, gender, spirituality) are no longer holding us back in they way they did before. Raising our children to be rainbow children, with friends that represent all backgrounds in life, is a very powerful way to help our children embrace diversity and learn from one another.
5. Modeling how to practically apply personal values
As mothers, we are one of our child’s most influential role models due to our close proximity in their lives. They watch what we say and do all day long. We teach our children how to practically apply the values we instill within them by living them out in daily situations. For example, we can teach our children to be active participants in their local communities by finding ways to involve them. Shopping local, supporting family-run businesses and donating time or efforts to local charities are all great ways to get our little people involved in the community. Over time and through intentional conversation, your kids will learn how to invest in their community and practically live out important values.
More Motherly wisdom from Tara—
When did you start your involvement with the fight against human trafficking?
Tara Teng: When I was sixteen we moved to a new community in the suburbs of Vancouver. As I got to know my neighbors, I learned that one of them had lost a daughter to human trafficking. At 14-years-old she had been lured into prostitution by a trafficker who pretended to be her boyfriend.
I had known about human trafficking before, but I always thought it happened in other places of the world, I didn’t realize that it was rampant even in North America, happening on my very street.
To have something so devastating hit so close to home made it impossible for me to ignore the reality. Throughout my high school years I began studying everything I could on human trafficking, both within Canada and abroad. I went on to become very active in social justice clubs throughout university.
Now, I’ve been working for ten years to combat human trafficking and I serve as the BC Director of the Joy Smith Foundation, focused on prevention programs and the rehabilitation of human trafficking survivors in Canada.
What has been accomplished, and what are you working on now?
Tara Teng: I worked in Canadian Parliament for a time as part of the team lead by MP Joy Smith that successfully passed two private member’s bills that established mandatory minimum sentencing for persons caught trafficking a minor, and that extended Canada’s extra-territorial jurisdiction to hold Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada accountable for trafficking minors outside of Canadian borders. We were also involved in the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, as initially proposed by MP Joy Smith. And alongside the Langley Human Trafficking Task Force, I co-wrote the country’s first municipal action plan to combat human trafficking.
Much of my work now is focused on helping the average person find their place in the freedom story.
It doesn’t matter who we are or what background we come from, we all have influence to make the world a better place.
I help people to understand their gifts and abilities so that they can use them with purpose.
My greatest encouragement is working with young people, and the mothers of young people. There is just something about a child that deeply understands fairness, equality and the importance of standing up for what is right; or teenagers who are compelled into action when they hear that the target age for recruitment into human trafficking in the same age as their peers.
These young people are world changers; and as their parents it is our job to model a socially conscious lifestyle to our children while also showing them an unwillingness to back down from what we know is right.
The key to making sure my mornings run smoothly is. . .
Tara Teng: The key to making my mornings run smoothly is time management…and a sweet cup of tea! But in all seriousness, I am always running late and mornings are the worst because no one in my family is a morning person. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful if I can prep breakfast and wash my hair the night before. Overnight oats with chia pudding and wild rice is a family favourite.
The lifehack or tip that has changed my life:
Tara Teng: The lifehack or tip that has changed my life is learning to when to say “no” to things that are draining so that I can save my “yes” for the things that really matter.
As mothers and modern women we all wear a lot of hats. For me, being a person of diverse interests and deep passion means that I have had to learn how to find balance in my life by focusing my efforts strategically and purposefully while also protecting the importance of family time and self-care. If I’m not intentional with my time and with my “yes” then I quickly tend to find myself spread too thin.
And when all else fails, we pack up the jeep and head to the mountains for a little family escape!
Choosing to only invest myself into things that bring purpose to my goals or things that bring joy to my heart has been a great way to avoid burnout.
The superpower I discovered as a mom:
Tara Teng: The superpower that I discovered as a mom was endurance. While in labor, we all reach a point where we must push ourselves to keep going, beyond what we originally thought was possible. We discover how strong we truly are and that endurance, the ability to push through the hardest times, brings us to the ultimate goal of holding our children in our arms.
For me, the strength and endurance I acquired giving birth has carried through with me today. When things get hard, I have to “woman up” and be the adult, because my littles need me to be strong for them.
The quote that inspires me on the hard days is. . .
Tara Teng: In my line of work, I come across a lot of nay-sayers, people who don’t believe that positive change can come to major world issues of injustice. Yet though I’ve seen some of the most horrific things humans can do to one another, I also get to witness incredible victory. The bottom line is that nothing is ever impossible and great power can come from a dedicated community that is faithful and strategic to their cause.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead
Right now, with the current world affairs, I’m hearing a lot of people question if one vote counts or if it’s even possible to bring change to a culture based on systemic racial discrimination and sexual violence; my answer will always be yes. It may not happen right away but we must never give up on fighting for what is right.
To me, being "Motherly" means. . .
Tara Teng: Being both strong and nurturing. Mothers are badass warriors, who fight for our children and to make the world a better place for the generations yet to come.
Haley Campbell is the founder of Beluga Baby and creator of the ultimate bamboo baby carrier. She is a regular contributor to Motherly and is an avid advocate for entrepreneurs, and for the new generation of mothers making the world their own.