In July 2017, Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) partnered with non-profit organisation Afrika Tikkun to conduct a four-day workshop series for a group of 49 Peer Educators, students of all ages coming from schools throughout Johannesburg. Note that peer education is a process whereby well-trained and motivated young people undertake informal or organized educational activities with their peers.The primary objective of the workshop series was to increase participants’ knowledge and abilities to facilitate sessions in relation to gender-based violence (GBV).
The first day of the series focused on the politics of violence, which was introduced using role plays. Through this, the peer educators explored the use of power in different relationships (e.g. parent/child, teacher/child, husband/wife), and how they may lead to exploitive and abusive circumstances. Participants also discussed power, patriarchy and misogyny as factors contributing to GBV. The second day focused on the psychology of violence. In this session, participants explored differences between gender, sex, sexuality, and sexuality orientation, and discussed the linkages of social expectations about sex, gender and sexual orientation to oppression.The third day focused on the justice system and was designed to empower participants with information about the civil and criminal legal remedies available to victims of GBV in South Africa. Participants were separated into four groups, and each group was given a case study relating to a situation of domestic violence. Each group presented their case study using role play techniques. The facilitators also led discussions around key definitions in the Sexual Offences Act (e.g. rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment) as well as concepts such as consent using various scenarios.
The final day of the series focused on a therapy-based body mapping activity called the Journey of Life. The purpose of this activity was to allow the participants to explore past life experiences, both good and bad, and how they impact their lives now. For this activity, participants were asked to lie down on sheets of poster paper. Facilitators then led participants through a guided meditation. The activity proved to be very powerful and emotional for all participants. Following the meditation, many of the participants shared difficult situations they had faced growing up including being exposed to violence, family breakdowns, neglect, suicide, and sexual abuse. Given the emotional intensity of this session, a further activity was used to help the peer educators think about their inner strengths. For this activity, the peer educators were asked to draw an outline of their body on the poster paper. Then, using different coloured crayons, participants were asked to identify their inner strengths and where they want to be in the future. This was a very empowering activity as it helped the participants realise that they are not victims of their own circumstances, and that their past bad experiences do not define who they are today.
By working with peer educators, LvA hopes to amplify the impact of the workshops series as the information shared will be transferred to others.