The Association for Legal Intervention hosted a 6-day training event on 3rd – 8th July 2017, in Warsaw, Poland. The event was organized within the framework of Erasmus+ (KA2) project called “Abused No More: Safeguarding Youth and Empowering Professionals”. The training aimed to strengthen the skills and competencies of youth professionals working with marginalized young people, especially those who are facing exclusion and discrimination due to gender based abuse or their cultural background.
The 6-day course enabled the youth work professionals from five European countries to create and exchange knowledge and raise awareness of the specific needs and realities of marginalized young people. The training addressed the issues related to the “Abused No More” project using drama and art therapeutic methods. Thanks to that, the training was an opportunity to develop skills of working with a youth group and to provide participants with useful tools that can be directly applied to their work with their target groups.
Day one of a training was time for getting to know each other and integrating with creative methods. After introduction and setting objectives to the entire 6-day event, participants introduced themselves using Dixit cards and created collages about themselves and about what they think is important in fighting discrimination.
Introduction to the work of SIP
Witold Klaus, president of SIP
Day two begun with meeting with Dr Witold Klaus, president of SIP, who gave a brief description of the organization and fields of SIP’s work.
“Support – we provide legal and social counselling for individual cases – our counselling is based on Association’s standards and is free of charge.
Information – our association develops and conducts trainings for professionals and groups of diverse cultural backgrounds, concerning their rights and duties. We are also aimed at spreading the civil and legal awareness in the society.
Policy – the aim of our actions is to improve the situation of marginalised social groups – through conducting research, monitoring the application of the law and presenting our opinions to bills we influence the state politics and its institutions.”
The presentation was followed by information about a situation of migrants in Poland – basic facts, numbers and occurring problems. The presentation triggered group discussion on current political and social situation of migrants and refugees in EU.
Meeting with Olga Hilik, coordinator of SIP’s Volunteer Centre, and SIP’s volunteers
The meeting gave a closer look at activities of SIP’s Volunteer Centre which is very important wing of Association for Legal Intervention (SIP). Association not only provides legal and social counselling for migrants and refugees in Poland, but also implements educational and integration projects for both migrants and Polish citizens. Olga Hilik and SIP’s volunteers talked about their work with migrants, kids and elders in Warsaw. They help as interpreters during doctor’s visits, they assist in theatre workshops with refugee children and in meetings with migrants and elders, like for example cooking classes or folk-art workshops.
“Barriers and margins”, Elżbieta Grab, project officer (SIP)
Last session on day two, “Barriers and margins”, was divided into two parts – group discussion and art therapy workshop. Participants considered various barriers faced by migrants that could lead to marginalization and discrimination. They reflected on needs and challenges in securing fair access to services and education for migrants. Next, participants divided into four groups created anti-discrimination posters based on issues emerged from the discussion.
Meeting with Dr Barbara Namysłowska-Gabrysiak, Director of Warsaw Legal Clinic
Day three was divided into three meetings. The participants had the opportunity to visit different institutions that work for human rights and social cohesion. First meeting took place in Warsaw Legal Clinic at Warsaw University. Dr Barbara Namysłowska-Gabrysiak, the director of mentioned institution, presented history and work of this organization and provided information on Clinical Legal Education in Poland. She spoke about activities and standards of Polish Legal Clinics Foundation in provision of pre-trial legal advice and basic legal information to people affected by poverty. Work of Legal Clinic is divided into didactic work and customer service. Its goals is both educational and work pro publico bono. It implements active methods of teaching like moot courts and role play. Hence it also organizes psychological workshop training for student before their work at Legal Clinic.
Meeting with Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak from the Office of the Polish Ombudsman
Next, participants moved to the Office of the Polish Ombudsman to meet with director of the Office – Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak. She shared information about the Office, which is an independent equality body that works on 600-1000 cases per year. However, a great challenge for the Polish Ombudsman’s Office is to target the cases of discrimination due to a big problem of underreporting. It was pointed out that 92% of victims do not report to anybody. The main identified reasons of this situation are lack of awareness that discrimination is illegal (so called “being used to” attitude), lack of knowledge what victims can do and lack of trust to institutions.
Later Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak spoke about discrimination against people with disabilities in Poland and against migrant and refuges. She pointed out the rising number of hate crimes against Muslims due to so called “refugee crisis” and problems on Polish borders that are currently faced by asylum seekers. She emphasized the need for ensuring inclusive education and developing anti-discrimination education in Poland.
“Peter Pan” – performance prepared by SIP with children from Warsaw Centre for Foreigners
Last activity of the third training day was watching “Peter Pan” – the show played by refugee children from Warsaw Centre for Foreigners. The performance was prepared within the framework of SIP’s project – “Children in Intercultural Warsaw”. A meeting turned out to be a great opportunity for integration and cultural exchange – after the show participants learned from kids how to dance Chechen dance and played music with them.
Introduction to Forum Theatre, Elżbieta Grab, project manager (SIP)
Fourth day of the training begun with an introduction to the Theatre of the Oppressed and Forum Theatre method. The participants had the opportunity to learn about Augusto Boal – Brazilian theatre director, founder of Theatre of the Oppressed – and his socially engaged theatre. They learned who is a Jocker and who is “spect-actor” and what are interventions in Forum Theatre.
Important aspect of Forum Theatre is that it deals with problems affecting people who create it and for whom it is created. After theoretical introduction and drama warm ups came session when participants shared stories of discrimination that they had witnessed or faced personally. During this process participants were divided into two groups and chose two stories that they wanted to develop in their performances. They discussed the scenarios and started to work on their scenes using introduced Applied Drama techniques.
Forum Theatre workshop, Elżbieta Grab, project manager (SIP)
Forum Theatre workshop continued during the fifth day of the training. Forum Theatre aims to create safe environment for so called “rehearsal for reality” in which spect-actors can find and try new solutions for difficult situations and “change oppressive monologue into dialogue”.
After first presentation of the performance actors repeat it and interaction between stage and audience begins. Spectators can become spect-actors, intervene on stage as a main character and change situations they don’t like.
During workshops participants developed characters in their stories and prepared two short performances. Both performances presented situations of discrimination based on ethnicity and skin colour. Finally, groups played their stories for each other and carried out crucial for Forum Theatre interventions. Workshops turned out to be emotional and important experience for participants. They emphasized the empowering dimension of Forum Theatre.
“I really learnt a lot from the Theatre of the Oppressed/Forum Theatre. […] I will always think and reflect on ways to change my own behaviour as having the strength to speak up for myself and my beliefs is the most powerful voice and tool there is.”
“I know that the Forum Theatre taught me something invaluable. Stand up for yourself… Love yourself and fight oppression.”
“The last two days I was introduced to Forum Theatre. I learned how to get young people engaged in using real life situations as a way to learn how to fight discrimination and defend their rights.”
As a summary, participants wrote hashtags on Forum Theatre:
#wordsmakechange #justbelikepanda #spectactors #abusednomore #oppressednomore #theatreintervine #interactivetheatre #forumthetre #theatreoftheoppressed #humanrights #challange #nowornever #useyourvoice #ifnotmewho #unitedweact #IactIchange #standupforyourrights #defendrights #fightforyourights #fightoppression #weareallequal #weareequal #stopdiscriminate #makeachange #startfromhere #fight #respectothers #respectyourself #loveyourself #safespace #yourspace #discrimination #antidiscrimination #antihate #nooppression #change #allforone #oneforall #Iamimportant #unity #attitude #empowerment #courageisthenewstrenght #liveandletlive #actenactchange #saynotoday #selfempowerment #realproblemsrealchange #standuptoracism #realpeoplerealstories #augustoboal #bekindtooneanother #changeperception #socialjustice #activists #livefearlessly #getinvolved
Day six was a closing day of the training. It was time for the evaluation of the event and a farewell. Participants could express their experiences writing “Letters from Warsaw”. In the end, using Dixit cards they created a story called “Fight for your rights”. It told adventures of a boy who went for both internal and external journeys to find his strength and courage to speak up for his rights.
“This five days was an example on how we can help others to open up and be more free and accepting. Now, we can take with us this experience and teach others new ways of connecting with others. I would recommend this way of teaching. Through fun times it comes the change.”
“As you can already tell my favorite part was the workshop because I think art is the best way of learning because you get more than just the knowledge around the debated problem. I know that we are all going to use what we learnt in Warsaw sooner or later.”
“From this trip I take back amazing stories, good vibes, nice people, knowledge, new methods and tools that I can use when working with marginalized youth and insights into the realities of Poland’s governmental action.”