Friday, August 27, 2010

Center Profiles: Project FED “Developing the capacity of CCBN students and staff to reduce the risk factors for gender-based violence”

Who is the leadership of the project, and how did you get involved?

Darling, Project Coordinator – I started working on violence prevention when I was 15 years old, at a personal level, by participating in young women’s reflection groups about rights, equality, gender, reproductive rights, sexuality, etc. After about 2 or 3 years I started to reproduce what I had learned and unlearned in those groups with other young women, especially young women in my rural community. I continued to work in and learn from a variety of women’s organizations and initiatives, and for three years coordinated an NGO’s violence prevention project. I was motivated to become a part of Project FED because it’s what I’ve had experience in, but I was also interested in how to bring the gender-based violence prevention theme to the area of arts and culture. I feel a personal and political commitment to institutionalize this work at the CCBN.

Teresa, Psychologist – I have 15 years of work experience on violence issues, including work in a variety of government ministries (health and family) and women’s organizations. My specialties are intra-family violence and sexual abuse, mostly working with survivors. I’ve liked working with women from a young age; my mother was a social feminist leader who taught me a lot. You have to have a lot of sensitivity to do this work, and you also have to be outside the cycles of violence to a certain extent.

Marco Aurelio, Psychologist/Promoter – I have worked in violence prevention since I was 17. I’m interested in all aspects of violence, including violence towards others but also violence towards ourselves. My specialties are sexuality and masculinities. I feel a personal and social commitment to this project, especially because my interest is working on a community level as opposed to an individual level. I want to help people make changes as a community to better themselves.

What is this project about?

This project is interesting for two concrete reasons: the goal of institutionalization of violence prevention (formation, awareness-raising, prevention, etc.) and how to orient everything that the CCBN does towards this institutionalization. In other words, how to give arts and culture activities the face of violence prevention.

What are the most pressing issues for the project?

We must invest energy into working with children and youth. An adult male said to us during one of our focal groups that “the reality is that I’m not going to change.” His attitude can change, and during the two years of the project we will keep sprinkling drops in the bucket and hopefully something will click. But the most important investment right now is with children and youth.

What kinds of activities will the project involve?

Formation activities, trainings, psychological attention, self-care and self-help groups, masculinity discussion groups, and prevention campaigns

Who will benefit from the project?

CCBN personnel, participants, and their families

Why is this project important to the CCBN?

The people have expressed how necessary it is. The CCBN has witnessed an increase in violence among women and children every year. They want to have knowledge about what violence is and practical tools to confront it. It’s a commitment on the part of the administration to figure out what to do to help solve the problem. The resources are all here, but we need to organize them and put them under a vision. It’s really about looking back at the roots of the CCBN, looking at the work that Angel and Margarita did and finding ways to continue that work. Our historical systematization shows how Margarita accompanied women in their transition from housewives to working outside the home. She accompanied them from a social empowerment perspective, telling them they could do it when they didn’t believe in themselves and challenging them to raise their self-esteem and work against the myths society tells women about themselves.

How do you find hope and motivation when you hear so many discouraging stories?

Marco Aurelio – Each of us lived a story of violence in our families. My motivation is that if I’ve been able to bring harmony to my life, others can do it, too. However, they need to have the right information and motivation. So my goal is to provide alternatives to violence that make sense in the context of each person’s reality as a way to lower violence in general.

Darling – Along with coming from a situation of violence, it’s a challenge for me to see how people can do things differently from their families. I’m motivated by the possibility of changing family dynamics and being able to choose the way you want to live.

Tere – Although I didn’t see a lot of violence in my house, I grew up without my father, and this motivated me because I believe that, for a child, it’s necessary for the family to live in harmony. However, if the family is going to live in violence, it’s better for them to be separated. It motivates me to collaborate in making new ways of relating to others, because sometimes people want to change, but they can’t do it alone and they need professional support to be able to overcome their struggles.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Boys to Men

The world is broken. Yes, I knew that before coming to Nicaragua. In fact, I think I’ve had an acute awareness of this fact from a young age. But there are weeks here where I feel like I get hit over the head with evidence of it over and over and over again, and it wears me down, makes me tired, and makes it hard to keep going. On the one hand, when people confide in me, I feel humbled and so privileged to be able to learn from them and accompany them in their pain. On the other hand, I feel so helpless. If all this stuff is just a product of a broken world, what can I really do about it?

And why does it seem like men are so much more broken inside than women? I think women suffer so much hardship and violence at the hands of men, but at the same time, I see that they are stronger because of it; they survive and learn to thrive from it. Men just remain…broken, lost, and unable to identify and articulate how they feel. This is why gender issues are important to everyone, not just women. We are all negatively affected by inequalities based on societal definitions of our anatomy.

According to the book Elementos Sociopsicológicos de Victimología (Sociopsychological Elements of Victimology) from Mexico:

“The traditional model of masculinity is supported by two essential elements that make up a true psychological profile:
•Emotional restriction: not speaking about feelings, especially with other men.
•Obsession with achievement and success.

These two basic characteristics translate into a kind of relationship with the world characterized by:
•Limited affective and sexual conduct,
•Attitudes based on models of control, power, and competition,
•Health problems.”

I see endless examples of this analysis in both my work and community life here in Batahola. Men seeking advice about family and relationships who can’t talk to their best friends about their struggles because they feel a sense of competition with them and a lack of openness. Men who think that their self-worth comes from pleasing all those around them and always succeeding with women. Men who, when asked how they feel, can’t come up with an answer. According to Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, this is not only a Latin American phenomenon. Through his experience leading men’s retreats he has concluded that Western men “[are] trapped inside, with almost no inner universe of deep meaning to heal [them] or guide [them].”

That’s not to say I haven’t met many deeply reflective men in Nicaragua. I have. It’s just that much of the human pain I see here (the pain we all experience as a result of living in a broken world) seems to stem from that explosive word “gender.” And as a young North American woman, I often don’t know how to respond to this pain in a culturally appropriate and knowledgeable way. So I find hope in the sharing of struggle and tend to do a lot of listening, a lot of hugging, and a lot of my own reflecting on how being a woman has shaped my identity for better and for worse.