Friday, 26 January 2018

Activate Voices Against Violence, Day 1

Waking up to snowy mountains put us all in good form for our first full day of Activate training in the WAGGGS Voices Against Violence curriculum.

After breakfast, we came together to meet our fellow Guiders. Representing over 15 Member Organisations (MOs), our facilitators told us that ours was the biggest Activate group that WAGGGS has trained so far. We were split into working groups before the traditional ice-breaker game. However, today's game was played in silence to emphasise that it didn't matter that we spoke a range of different languages.

Then down to work: our introductory session covered issues around confidentiality, disclosure, and creating a safe space. Faced with the stark fact that 6 out of 10 women will experience violence in their lifetime, it's obvious that WAGGGS is in a unique position to make a difference through education, raising awareness and taking action. Through role play we explored what Voices Against Violence campaigns MOs have undertaken in other countries, from flash mobs in Peru to addressing parents' associations in Nigeria. As the eventual aim of this week is to adapt this curriculum for IGG, it was interesting to explore what other Guiding associations are doing with it.

Our next session on child protection was fascinating as we discovered how this topic is treated around the world. Compared to some countries, it was apparent that Irish Girl Guides has a very progressive child protection policy in place.

Lunch was eaten back in the main chalet. Swapping stories and experiences with Leaders from around the world is always a huge part of any World Centre experience. Activate has brought together a wonderfully diverse group of Leaders and Chalet staff and volunteers (vollies), with representatives from El Salvador, Lebanon, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US, alongside Iceland, Greece, Finland, UK, Germany, Austria and Finland. And, of course, us Irish. Sangam World Centre and the nearby Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) are also represented.

After lunch, our sessions focussed on gender and sexuality, gender-based violence, gender inequalities, and human rights. We examined stereotypes, discussed sexual orientation, and debated the difference between gender and sex. We watched an informative TEDx talk by Sam Killermann on 'Understanding the Complexities of Gender', which is well worth looking up.

After a heavy day's work we were ready for dinner. But first our Chalet duties. As many of the Chalet staff and vollies are taking part in Activate, we all have chores to help spread the workload. Today was mostly polishing and cleaning toilets and bathrooms, and figuring out Our Chalet's extensive and effective recycling system. Everything is recycled here, so you have to make sure to separate your paper from your general waste, your Tetra packs from your PET plastics, and your food waste from your compost. But after sitting down for most of the day, even running back up to the attic (for the fourth time) to fill the soap dispenser was done in good spirits with laughter and humour.

After dinner, Swiss Night gave us lots of laughs too - from the acting talents (!) displayed in our William Tell play, to new and quirky facts learned in Who Wants to be a Swiss Millionaire? Chocolate fondue for supper rounded off a great day at Our Chalet.

~ Carol-Anne O'Reilly

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