Minette Valentine’s tireless advocacy for victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking

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Minette Valentine is on a mission to bring heightened awareness to the sexual exploitation of women and girls through education and advocacy. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, she immigrated to the United States at the tender age of nine. Minnette attended the University of Indianapolis where she received her Bachelor of Art in Psychology with a minor in Political Science and Community Leadership and went on to attain her Law Degree from Loyola University School of Lawin Chicago, Illinois.

Anti-Trafficking Movement hits very close to home with Minette and she is passionate about bringing education and awareness to communities and serving as an advocate for the disadvantaged. Minette serves as a Co-Chair for her local Anti-Trafficking Taskforce which includes Attorneys, Judges, Doctors, Social Workers and community members. Minette has extensive experience working with children and youths. She has worked in Foster Care agencies serving in various roles such as Licensing Coordinator, Quality Assurance Manager and Regional Manager, as well as working in Residential Facilities as a Therapist focusing on complex trauma cases. Minette has also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Marion County, Indiana, advocating for abused and neglected children. Minette has written policies that have been approved and utilized by the Courts for Homeless youths. Yet, she is often quick to note that “I do not consider myself an expert- survivors are the real experts.”

Minette is also the founder of Pearls of Wisdom International which is an organization focusing on educating and empowering underprivileged girls through building of schools, community health centers and safe houses for those that are victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. Apart from these, Minette is also a certified Conflict Management/Resolution Specialist and Motivational Interviewer and puts this into practice by serving as a Mediator for Domestic cases in Illinois.

Minette’s commitment is apparent in her professional achievements and personal pursuits. She has become quite influential within the legal sector from drafting the Homeless Youth Initiative Policy and passed by the Courts in 2010 to having her first academic journal published in 2014 with Loyola University School of Law. Minnette has been honoured with numerous accolades including International Bar Association circa 2014, America’s Who’s Who 2013, Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Honor Society circa 2012, Psi Chi Honor Society circa 2008, Center for Leadership Development Diversity Award 2014, Precious Gems Mentor of the Year 2015, Women Leading Women 2011, Vital Women’s Award 2016, Child Advocate of the Year 2009, Who’s Who up and coming Mediators 2015.

My faith in God is my number one drive because I want to make sure I am being a good steward of the gifts, resources and time He has bestowed upon me. My family – they are my back bone and I always want to make them proud (especially my parents) and my struggles because everything that was meant to break me didn’t – I know I am destined for greatness and was created for such a time as this.

Illuminessence is honoured to spotlight this dynamic fem-leader whose professional impact is laudable and far-reaching.

“I know I am destined for greatness and was created for such a time as this.”- Photo courtesy of Minette Valentine

Who inspires you for success?

My mother. She is my biggest motivation and inspiration. She has overcome a lot of adversities and always strives to be a better version of herself. She always taught me that my faith in God is of utmost importance, to never look down or judge others, walk humbly and fight for the oppressed. At a young age, I learned the importance of serving and giving back through watching her serve everyone she came in contact. No-one was beneath her and nothing was above her. I always say if I can be half the woman my mother is, I will be eternally grateful and pleased with myself.

 

What motivated you to pursue your career path?

 

Helping and serving others has always been engrained in me at an early age, so as I matured in my studies and discovering my purpose, I always knew I would find myself in a career path helping others. The adversities I faced and the strength of my mother further stirred me in the direction toward advocacy and policy. It is important not only for me to be an advocate for the voiceless, but to create policies on their behalf for justice and restoration.

 

What challenges have you encountered in your career?

 

This is a two-fold question because my position as a Regional Coalition Coordinator is for Anti-Trafficking work and my position as a Domestic Mediator is on the legal frame of things. As far as being a Regional Coalition Coordinator, getting people to understand that Human Trafficking is real and it happens right in our own back yard is the most challenging. A lot of people believe it is only an international problem thus they turn a blind eye and want nothing to do with it. Being a Domestic Mediator has its own set of challenges because I am the first person you come in contact with before taking your case to court. It is my job to help you come to an agreement and resolve the conflict amicably. When you’re dealing with divorce or custody battles, you can imagine the challenge that comes with (arguing, screaming, name calling etc.). Couples can stay in a room with me anywhere from an hour to six hours or have to come back again until a solution is reached that both parties are happy with (especially in the best interest of the child, if applicable) has been found and we’ve come to an agreement.

 

How do you overcome these challenges?

 

At the end of the day- when it is all said and done, I’m an advocate- to be a voice to those who do not have a voice or are afraid to use it. I’m in to bring about change, hope, justice and restoration. I never truly overcome these challenges, I just always remember why I do what I do and that has always kept me level and focused- especially on the hard days.

 

What is exciting and unique about your career?

 

The people I meet- stories I hear. Nothing stays the same in this field, trends are always changing which always provides an opportunity for growth and development.

 

What are your passionate pursuits, personal interests and hobbies?

 

Outside of work, I love empowering young girls and women. I pride myself in community involvement through mentorship, volunteering, speaking engagements etc. I am a lover of all things fashion and in my next life I’d want to become a stylist. I am currently working on a cook book, so I’m always looking for innovative and creative ways to re-create favorite dishes and conceptualizing fresh flavorful dishes- with a vision of opening a restaurant in Sierra Leone. I love to write – I find it’s easier for me to express my thoughts in writing than speaking. I have experienced a lot and it is time to share my story so stay tuned. I also love interior designing and event planning and have recently began the journey to really “own” my talent, study it and perfect it.

Minette Valentine- Photo courtesy of Minette Valentine

My most important passionate pursuit is my NGO Pearls of Wisdom Int’l. “to empower and educate”– building schools, community health centers and safe houses for underprivileged girls and girls that have been victims of sexual exploitation. That is what I am the most passionate about, so I spend a lot of time brain storming, drafting grant proposals and fundraising ideas.

 

How do you maintain work-life balance?

 

I learned the hard way, being in a career of advocacy and social service – burn out is real, so it’s important to always take time for yourself. I have learned to leave work at work and enjoy the moments when I am at home. It is also important for me to set boundaries with those I work with and my family and ensuring we all understand each other’s absolutes – the things you absolutely will not compromise and the things that we can be flexible with. Naturally I want to please others and although I still struggle with it at times- I have gotten better with saying no when my plate gets too full.

 

How do you unwind?

 

Guilty pleasure – chocolate. Favourite ways to unwind – listening to motivational talks/videos, reading my Bible, Prayer, reading a book whilst drinking tea, long walks and playing chess.

 

What is your advice to a young woman considering a similar career path?

 

Have good self-care – it’s very easy to take on the challenges of your job and the victims/survivors you come in contact with and bring it home with you. So it’s important to have ways in which you take care of yourself to prevent secondary trauma and burn out from happening. I will also advice on knowing that “you can’t fix everyone.” Yes, we want to end exploitation and modern day slavery, but realistically we cannot fix everyone and although it is hard, it is important to understand there are things that will be beyond your control and there may be days in which it seems nothing has changed and in those moments- you have to remind yourself that you did the best you can and be ok with that.

This field and career path comes with a lot of reading, late nights and unorthodox scheduling, so be prepared for anything and make sure your time management and organizational skills are on point.

Connect with Minette on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Grace Kargobai is the Founder of Illuminating Ladies, a global network of Illuminessence ambassadors, facilitated on WhatsApp. She is a graduate of Njala University with a major in Environmental Management and Quality Control. Her hobbies are writing, talking, singing and dancing.

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