Growing confidence amongst young leaders for nonviolence

Interaction in the group

Interaction in the group

How young people grow in confidence in addressing the violence in their lives has become increasingly evident in a project in which ICON is currently involved.  A series of workshops with student leaders from a Durban high school has demonstrated the enthusiasm with which the young leaders speak, articulate their concerns, and work with increasing effectiveness in groups.

Olga sets out the issues she confronts

Olga sets out the issues she confronts

Initially, group work was led by the outside facilitators, and in the last session young people were invited to volunteer to take on the facilitation role.  This they found challenging, but also very fulfilling, while the group members generally enjoyed the process and revelled in the opportunity to articulate their ideas and to experience the sense of collective problem-solving.

leadership in group

Sne taking leadership of a lively group

This work is in sharp contrast to the prevailing negativity about young people in schools, the sense that they have to be coerced and treated with disrespect.  Given the opportunity to explore a different way of relating, young people respond with creativity and enthusiasm.

Listening emerged as a key skill

Listening emerged as a key skill

Two projects draw on ICON’s resources

Two workshops over the weekend from 23 to 24 February 2013 brought ICON into different roles in tackling violence in education. On 23rd February ICON hosted and participated in the first of a series of three workshops for students at a Durban high school, addressing their experience of violence. This was a led by two Scottish educationists, Susan Lendrum and Alex Wallace of the Jabulani Project. After a theory session, 24 students grappled with their personal experiences of violence. Exploratory work was done (mainly) in separate groups of boys and girls where there was a degree of emotional intensity and seriousness in both groups.

This led into a sharp discussion between girls and boys when they came together, in which the boys latter were accused of not taking girls seriously. This accusation was in sharp contrast to how the boys had just worked respectfully and intimately with one another. This moved into a rich and productive group time in which the possibility of harmonious and mutually supportive relationships between boys and girls was expressed. Once challenged, boys began to assert their ability to listen to girls, and to be more honest in their relationships with girls, which led into further discussion. The girls, too, began to think about their own problems in trusting boys.

A key problem for boys was that, when asked what stopped them from listening thoughtfully to each other, they said they felt anxious about being labelled as gay. This is an issue that will be picked up again in the subsequent workshops, which will focus on issues of love and loss, of respect and difference, of homophobia and of fears around being themselves/ the person they really are…

ICON has been promoting recognition of the need to undertake some of this kind of work in carefully facilitated gender-separate groups, to enable each gender to speak more freely. This seems to move typically into much more direct and honest communication between girls and boys, after which the possibility of more relaxed collaboration seems possible.

Both girls and boys worked intensely, but in separate groups

Both girls and boys worked intensely, but in separate groups

Boys demonstrated their prowess in Scottish dancing during a break

Boys demonstrated their prowess in Scottish dancing during a break

The second workshop, starting later the same day, was designed to take ahead anti-homophobia work in schooling. Led by Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the workshop systematically addressed ways in a module for teachers can form part of a strategy for making schools places safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex youngsters and staff.

If our agenda includes making education a safe place, and a model of nonviolence in society, leaving any group of students or staff unsafe is unacceptable. The plan is to run a pilot project in early April with student teachers and in-service teachers at UKZN. Crispin Hemson, ICON Director, will be directly involved in the design and teaching of the lectures and workshops.

In both these projects, ICON’s grasp of ways of teaching around violence is a central resource.

Activists and academics

Activists and academics

Invitation to the launch of ICON Australia

I Gambhir Watts, take the liberty of informing you about my recent active participation at the “Roots to Fruits: Nonviolence in Action” conference at Durban University of Technology, South Africa held between 31st July to 2nd August 2012. I am grateful for the chance to meet revered Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and founder and trustee of Gandhi Development Trust, South Africa.

Inspired by and with the support of Ela Gandhi, Gandhi Development Trust and ICON (International Centre of Nonviolence) Durban, we are launching the International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON) Australia. The announcement was made on 2 October 2012 when celebrating theLogo for ICON Australia UN International Day of Nonviolence and commemorating the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.

The main objective of the ICON Australia will be to part education on action in nonviolence at various levels.

Formal launch function will be held on
27 February 2013 at 7:00 pm at The Theatrette, Parliament House, 9Corner Hunter and Macquarie Streets Sydney 2000

Revered Ela Gandhi will grace the launch.

We humbly request your presence at historic noble event. Please confirm your acceptance and support at the earliest.

Best regards,
Gambhir Watts
For the full invitation, please paste this link into your browser: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dt3ulrvc5iqbuml/Invitation%20-general.pdf

The power of nonviolence and peaceful schools

Some of those who came to listen to Dieter Lunse

Some of those who came to listen to Dieter Luense


Dieter Luense is Leader of the Institute of Conflict Management and Mediation, in Hamburg, Germany. He has had a background in nonviolent action, over some decades. He founded the Institute 15 years ago, and set up a programme for nonviolence, civil courage, mediation and violence prevention in Hamburg.

Dieter spoke at an ICON seminar on 24th January 2013, taking examples from Liberia and from the upheaval in the GDR in the late 1980s. Much of his presentation concerned how activists can intervene in even a small way to change the dynamics within a situation. He championed ‘civil courage’, the steadfast resistance to evil.

Schools and other institutions can become places where people choose to recognise things that are wrong and to find creative ways of challenging them. Dieter’s message was one of hope and confidence.

To join the mailing list for such seminars, please send a request to icon@dut.ac.za.