Violence in my life
Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.
The Dalai Lama
This is an activity in which people explore their experiences of inter-personal violence.
- Related rights
• The right to life, liberty and personal security
• Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
• Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
• To develop knowledge and understanding about being the object of violence and the cause of violence
• To encourage the development of skills to deal with violence in positive ways
• To develop values of tolerance and responsibility.
- 2 OctoberInternational Day of Non-Violence
1. Explain that this is an opportunity for the participants to share thoughts and feelings about personal experiences of inter-personal violence, both when people were violent to them and when they were violent to others.
2. Make sure that everyone knows and understands the rules for participatory group work: that everyone should be treated with respect, that what anyone says is held in confidence and that no one is to feel under pressure to say anything which makes them feel uncomfortable.
3. Conduct a brief brainstorming session on the word ‘violence', asking participants to give examples of everyday violence, for instance, verbal abuse, insults, sarcasm, queue-jumping, barging in front of someone, smacking a child or hitting / being hit, intimidation by gangs, burglary, petty theft or pick pocketing, vandalism, and so on.
4. Ask everyone to take five minutes to reflect about personal incidents when:
a) someone acted violently towards them
b) when they acted violently towards someone else
c) when they saw someone else being violent but did not intervene.
5. Ask for volunteers to offer their experiences as examples for the group to consider together. Let them say what happened and how they feel about it. Try to get two examples in each category a, b and c.
6. Make brief notes about the incidents on the flip chart.
Debriefing and evaluation
Start with a short discussion about the activity as a whole and whether or not it was difficult, and why. Then go on to analyse the causes and effects of the different incidents.
• Why did the violent situation happen?
• Why did you behave the way you did?
• How would other members of the group have behaved in similar circumstances?
• How could you have behaved differently? Has the rest of the group any suggestions?
• What could anyone have done to prevent the incident from happening?
• In the case of c), why didn't they intervene?
• Where there any general causes of the incidents or were they all unique?
• How many incidents were the result of misunderstandings, how many the result of bitterness, spite or jealousy and how many the result of differences of culture and custom, opinion or belief?
• What do people understand by the word ‘tolerance'? How would they define it?
• Should we be tolerant of everything other people do or say?
• Why is tolerance a key value for the promotion of human rights?
Tips for facilitators
Stress that the purpose of this activity is to develop skills for dealing with violence, by recognising the causes, acknowledging feelings and emotions, and developing skills to act assertively in order to control the situation. The focus is on finding non-violent means of responding to violent situations and not on helping individuals to get over a trauma. If anyone is suffering as a result of violence, then tell them that they are welcome to talk with you in private afterwards, when you can help them find a professional counsellor.
Be prepared for surprises and to support anyone who finds this activity difficult or upsetting. You cannot know everyone's background nor what is happening or what has happened in their families. It might be that some participants have had bad experiences of violence, for instance child abuse, domestic violence, psychological or emotional abuse, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, racism, bullying at school or at work, road rage, self harm, attempted suicide, hate crimes, terrorism, genocide, war, war crimes and violent crime.
Tell people to remember Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." If we expect others to follow this Article, then we too have to follow it.
If you have more than ten people in the group you could divide them up into small groups to share their stories.
This makes a good drama activity. Ask two, three or four people to develop a short role-play of an incident. The rest of the group observe. You can then stop the role-play at intervals and ask the audience to comment or to make suggestions as to how the role-play should continue. Alternatively, members of the audience can intervene directly to take over from the actors and develop alternative outcomes.
Instead of Forum Theatre you can also do "Image Theatre". It is a very efficient method when you want people to reflect about violence. Ask one person – the sculptor – to create a collective image by using some of the other participants and sculpting their bodies to produce a tableaux or scene showing a violent situation. When the sculptor has finished, the rest of the group can comment and ask questions. The next step should be to transform the representation into a positive, non-violent image of the situation.
Suggestions for follow-up
You may like to discuss the contradiction in the UN Declaration on Principles of Tolerance which raises issues about the limits to tolerance. "Tolerance is consistent with respect for human rights; the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs." Ask the group to consider that, if "the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice", then how can one at the same time "accept that others adhere to their [convictions]", especially if those convictions are racist or bigoted?
Find out about organisations that provide support for victims of violence, for example, telephone help-lines or victims' support networks. Find out about other organisations that promote understanding and tolerance in the community.
If you would like to continue working with the theme of peace and violence, you could look at the activities "Domestic affairs" which looks at violence in the family, "My life is not a show" about cyberbullying, and "Do we have alternatives" which explores bullying.
Ideas for action
Get in touch with an organisation that works to promote peace and non-violence in the community and find out how you could help as volunteers.
The World Health organisation (WHO) in its first World Report on Violence and Health (2002) defined violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation."
UN Declaration of Principles
Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance
1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, but it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all,
an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.
The United Nations' (UN) International Day of Non-Violence is a global observance that promotes non-violence through education and public awareness. It is held annually on October 2 to coincide with renowned Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.
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