The second and third days of the Democracy and Human Rights training for trainers organised by TOG from the 19th to the 25th of March provided tangible applications of the concepts defined previously.
A first activity addressed discrimination by putting participants in a train station environment, where passengers don’t all go on the same life journey. Some are blind, deaf, disabled or old, others are young and able. Some speak Turkish while others don’t. The train station has a VIP room, a press stand, a restaurant and an information desk. But depending on their identity, status and abilities, passengers don’t all have equal access to these facilities. Entering the station in somebody else’s shoes, participants realised how society so readily rejects those perceived as being out of the norm. The simulation showed how individual differences are often stigmatised rather than valued or at least catered for.
Day 2 continued with a focus on gender issues. Participants were divided into groups of boys and girls to reflect on stereotyped answers to a set of three questions, the first one being “where do you feel safe?” A clear divide materialised. Female participants felt safest in a family environment, at home, while their male counterparts preferred the company of weapons, money and beefy friends. In the face of fear, both genders were perceived as seeking reassurance, though via more or less aggressive means. The second question related to employment, and here again, the groups agreed that certain jobs were seen as more male (e.g.: engineering) and others as more female (e.g.: nursing). Thirdly, participants were asked to find adjectives that typically describe a gender or another, and it appeared that most of the negative ones related to women, seen as “week”, “shy” or “clumsy”. The trainers wrapped up the workshop by giving information on different types of sexual identity, showing participants that there is no clearly cut gender line and shattering the preconceptions formulated just before.
In the evening, another simulation staged a different kind of rights issue: access to tritherapy treatment for HIV patients in South Africa. Participants went to court to enact this historical case, voicing the positions of the pharmaceutical industry, the patients and the South African government.
This activity showed how discrimination can be a complex affair, opposing copyright laws to basic, sometimes constitutional human rights, such as living in dignity and access to medication. Participants ended the day in the same country, with the screening of the controversial movie District 9.
Day 3 addressed the theme of living together from a different angle, provided another occasion for participants to practice their advocacy skills and reminded them what TOG stands for.
Rengarenk, meaning “colourful”, was a refreshing choice to start the morning. The game stripped down the heavy issues addressed the day before to a simple, completely apolitical aim: making four colours match on a grid. It looked a little like solving a two dimensional Rubik’s cube. Participants split into four teams were given five sheets of paper composed of the four red, blue, yellow and green squares arranged in different ways. On the floor was a grid with 25 boxes, and one by one, the teams had to lay down their papers and make them match so that the combinations of sheets would end up forming four-squared monochrome assemblies. The teams each supported a single colour, but they had to link the effort of fitting it in the grid with the higher aim of making the other colours match in order to score points for the whole community. The game provided a relevant image of how communities should combine their individual interests to create a win-win situation for themselves and society as a whole.
In the afternoon, a game called “the Gods go mad” gathered villagers claiming their rights, divinities reluctant to yield them, and messengers working at voicing them to the latter. It was a realistic depiction of the decision-making process that prevails in most democratic systems, notably at an EU level, where lobbies represent the interests of citizens and organisations by influencing law-making MPs in Brussels.
After a short presentation on political concepts from an etymological point of view, that assessed how the political and public sphere influence one another, the day ended with a workshop on the six principles of TOG, illustrated through a series of short videos. For instance, one of a F1 pit stop symbolised team work. However small a person’s contribution is to the pit stop, if that person is missing, the whole process collapses.