When my friend Nancy came to visit, she asked to run a workshop with me. She is part of the Gender and Development Committee who just rolled out a gender-based violence workshop. They have been working on this idea for about a year and have given it to all the second-year volunteers to pilot in our areas. Because Nancy is based in Vila, she doesn’t have a community to pilot it on, so asked to use mine. I thought that was a great idea and did the leg work to get it going.
The workshop started around 9, which is about an hour earlier than any of the workshops I’ve run before. (I told the women that I’d sell bras afterward, so they were chomping at the bit.) We did the “dot game.” I put a sticker on everyone’s back and they have to put themselves in groups according to their sticker without speaking or looking at their own sticker. Then we talked about communication and the different ways we communicate. That was just the warm up.
From there, we played “clay man.” In partners, one person is the clay and the other one is the artist. The artist can make the clay do any position it wants and the clay can’t object. It opens up a discussion of control within relationships. We asked how the clay felt while it was being made to do awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing things. From there we talked about who is clay and who is the artist in our relationships: child and parent, teacher and student, minister and congregation, auntie and uncle, husband and wife. Interestingly, in a group of women, they all agreed the man should be the artists and the woman the clay. I asked if they would make laplap the way their husbands said to, even if they were wrong. They didn’t give me a strong answer on that one.
The committee has developed or stolen a skit that I really like. Jason and Nancy did the skit. Jason offered Nancy a glass of water, she said yes. She held the cup while he poured but rather than stopping when she said enough, he kept pouring. He’d pause when she pulled it away and then just keep pouring until he emptied the bottle he was pouring from, the whole time Nancy was telling him to knock it off. Afterwards, Nancy asked him why he kept pouring and he said she’d asked for the water at first, so he’d given her water.
It is, obviously, an allegory for rape and consent. The women really seemed to get this. They thought what Jason did was ridiculous, since Nancy had said stop. We asked them about rape and they followed the message through to say that Nancy said no and Jason should have listened. I consider that a victory. After a long (and slightly boring) discussion of the Family Protection Act of Vanuatu and the difference between a right and a responsibility, we got on with the next game.
We played relationship jenga. Its like all those drinking games you used to play in college, except all about bad relationships, so still maybe like those drinking games in college. I read off an action within a relationship. The participants had to decide if it was “building up” or “breaking down” the relationship. Each “building up” added a piece and each “breaking down” removed a piece. For example, “Papa takes the school fee money to go buy kava,” breaks down the relationship so they had to take out a piece. “Mama and Papa go together to shell out copra to pay school fees” built up the relationship, so they added a piece to the top.
The main problem with this game is how steady-handed the ni-Vans are. In a culture where the vast majority of the population work with their hands, the hand-eye coordination is ridiculous. It took ages to knock it down. Even with the too-good-at-it problem, it makes a good metaphor, or as they are called here, parable. The relationship starts out nice and solid and before long it has holes in it. As it gets worse and worse, it gets harder to find safe places to touch until eventually it falls down. A nice, tidy parable to end a workshop about communication and respect within relationships.
Then we had a bra sale. That was more interesting.