Educating youth is essential in preventing and eliminating gender-based violence (GBV) in T&T and worldwide. Population Services International-Caribbean, in its mission to support NGO’s working on the issue on the ground, has instituted a “Make It Stop” Campaign to empower youth with the skills, knowledge and abilities to change behaviour.
Program assistant Sharon Mottley said a consultant developed a 12-session curriculum based on the best global models of curricula addressing GBV in the context of T&T. The facilitators meet with youth once a week for 90 minutes over the course of three months. “It’s important to do it once a week, give them time to go home, absorb and reflect on the things they’ve learned, practice what they learned and then come back the following week.”
The course begins with expectations in relationships and how to talk about them. “Does your partner know what you expect from them? Do you ask them what they expect in a relationship? You may expect something in particular to happen but you never told them, so it’s an unrealistic and unfair expectation.”
Sharon said it then moves on to discussing gender and gender norms. “There are roles assigned to people who define as male, and roles assigned to people who define as female and conflict comes from them trying to step out of those roles. Those roles are about power and control and nowhere in those roles do we even try to look at sexual minorities, who are totally outside these roles. We can’t even deal with each other as male and female without violence and then we throw other people in the mix. The curriculum looks at gender and gender norms to have people understand where those ideologies come from and how, if you begin to recognize and understand, then really and truly we all need to be equal and treated equitably and how you go about doing that in the current landscape.”
Another topic discussed is that of values and seeing yourself as valuable, which plays into expectations and communication in relationships. Sex and sexuality is also talked about, including understanding and embracing that the world is more than the two defined groups of male and female. This includes the topics of gender expression, gender identity and similar phenomena.
“We try and bring young people to an understanding of the issues, so that when they make decisions, it’s guided by information and knowledge and tools. How do we create and maintain healthy relationships, what does a healthy relationship look like and how do we communicate? It’s not designed as lectures, all the learning takes place through interaction including acting and teaching exercises. They do a journal at the end of each session when they go home, and learn character development by building two characters based on what they learned. At the end of the 12 sessions, we let them create something, artwork, a song, a dance, a play, any expression of their learning, which PSI will showcase at any activity we’re having on a national level.”
PSI-C also does community-based interventions to provide resources and awareness to people who may be victims and/or perpetrators of GBV. This also includes training in bystander intervention. “What do you do if you witness it or you know it’s happening? How do you intervene in this situation safely, because you don’t want to be shot or attacked? Interventions are necessary and there are safe ways to do that but people don’t know what they are.”
Ongoing training is also being provided to strengthen the skills and capacity of service providers and people who currently work in the field of intimate partner violence and domestic violence as providers or stakeholders.
A major part of the program includes research, as PSI tries to do all its work on the basis of evidence. A study was commissioned on GBV, through a survey done in over 800 households and data was gathered from 723 women, providing quantitative data. The almost 100 questions in the survey were used to get a sense of the demographics, what communities are most affected, what age groups are most affected and what the role is of socio-economic factors in GBV.
“We’re trying for a holistic approach to GBV because you see it all over the newspapers, especially when somebody gets killed but somehow something’s missing. Many of us live in abusive relationships and we don’t know how to make it stop. Men don’t get out of bed as monsters, those monsters are created and they themselves don’t know how to make it stop because they don’t know where it comes from and so it’s really about trying to address some really hard issues. It’s really that we are a very violence-prone society, regardless of gender, and that goes into all our relationships, not only intimate partner but our relationships with our children, our coworkers, etc.”
When looking at intimate partner violence, including same-sex relationships and women abusing men, it’s really about power dynamics, it’s always about power and control, so whoever in the relationship that has that power and control is in a position to be a perpetrator, regardless of what the relationship looks like and so it’s important to get to the core issues as opposed to making it a man-woman issue but the issue around control and power and how we try to impose our will on other people and how we all are equal and how we treat with that equalness but what the research does show across the globe is that women are more impacted, just because they are women. it’s really that we are a very violence-prone society, regardless of gender and that goes into all our relationships, not only intimate partner but our relationships with our children, our coworkers, etc.