When the violence prevention program coordinator, Ivania, invited me to start attending meetings and events of the program’s youth team, I jumped at the chance to tag along!
The group of 20 young people had an opening retreat a few weeks ago, where they focused on getting to know each other, the history of the group’s activities, and discussed different types of violence. The group has already created and performed a short skit for Women’s day discussing gender roles, and they performed it at the Center as well as a at a local elementary school.
Besides having a focus on theatre that aims at analyzing situations of domestic violence, the Promoters will be reaching out to the community to see what their needs are for awareness. They will learn how to facilitate workshops on violence and human rights for community members as well as younger youth who participate in activities here at the Center.
After going through some announcements, Ivania asked the youth to share about a time where they had seen a situation of violence in their lives. The room got eerily silent for a moment as they looked back through their memories, until the first promoter spoke up. He shared about his brother and sister arguing one night, until it got physical. His mother ended up asking the son to leave the house, and young man sharing didn’t go to school the next day, because he had been up listening to them until 4am. We went around the room as they continued to share, and the next young man shared about witnessing his father abuse his mother for 17 years before they separated. A young woman talked about falling in love and changing herself for her partner, for example dressing more feminine and learning to cook, and four years later found herself stuck in an abusive relationship. Someone asked how she got out of it, and she answered with, “Well first off, I met Ivania.” I shared about an experience that I had about a friend and her abusive partner, and after this time of sharing Ivania brought the young people’s attention back to their motivation for wanting to be a part of this group.
It’s personal; People’s reasons for wanting to create change in their neighborhoods. They see and hear violence not only on the news, on their streets and through the thin walls to their neighbor’s houses, but they have touched it and seen it in their very own homes. The shyest young man in the group to the most talkative and seemingly confident young woman had all seen things in their life that many could never imagine witnessing, BUT, that’s how life is. And they have found a way to channel their experience into a movement for good.
I am learning that one of the greatest parts of the Center is that you don’t just come to take a class and then leave. Groups like the Violence Prevention Promoters offer youth an opportunity to keep coming back and to be a part of a community program that is not only educational, but also SUSTAINABLE. Sustainable in the way that they are learning and teaching about empowerment; and that is something that cannot be undone.