Adolescents' Awareness Raising Workshops "Building Healthy Intimate Relationships" in Cyprus
Upon finalization of the two training seminars of 28 teachers of secondary education started in 2016 the implementation of Experiential Awareness Raising Workshops of students on issues related to gender stereotypical attitudes, gender equality and of gender-based violence in adolesents' relationships.
In Cyprus, 8 workshops were implemented with students in 6 public secondary schools: 3 Gymnasiums/junior high schools and 3 Lyceums/senior high schools. In total, 178 students participated in the workshops, 76 boys and 102 girls. The students who participated attended the 1st and 2nd grade of gymnasium and the 1st and 2nd grade of lyceum, the majority of them (70%) being between 12-15 years of age.
The workshops employed the non-formal education approach, using experiential learning methodologies such as role playing, case study analysis, drawing, debate and other interactive approaches. Activities were implemented from four different Modules, namely ‘Introduction’, ‘Gender Stereotypes’, ‘Adolescent Relationships’ and ‘Intimate Partner Violence’. Teachers were prompted to use a minimum duration of 13 teaching hours for the workshops so as to provide adequate time for activities to be equally introduced from all 4 modules and to allow sufficient room for facilitation and discussion with the students. Implementation of the workshops took place from the end of January/ beginning of February until April /May 2016, with an average of 17 activities being implemented per school.
To test the impact of the workshops on students’ knowledge, perceptions, self-reported behaviours and attitudes, an evaluation was conducted before and after the GEAR intervention (measured on the basis of the comparison of students’ answers on pre- and post-workshop self-completed questionnaires). The results of this evaluation were calculated on the basis of 159 pre-, 137 post and 135 matched pre and post questionnaires. The results besides revealing the great relevance of the GEAR against IPV Workshop, it also provides a clear picture of the real situation in Cyprus with regard to the extent of gender inequality and IPV in adolescents’ relationships.
The GEAR programme is highly relevant to adolescents’ realities as it addresses significant issues in relation to gender roles, gender inequalities, gender stereotypes and healthy and unhealthy intimate relationships. As indicated in this report, adolescents do not easily recognize the warning signs of abuse in their relationships and often tend to overlook controlling and potentially harmful behaviours, exposing themselves to the risk of being abused. Moreover, gender stereotypical attitudes, engrained perceptions about socially imposed gender roles, attitudes exhibiting tolerance of abusive behaviours and difficulty to recognize common myths of IPV, also increase the risk of adolescents maintaining unhealthy patterns in their relationships.
The pre and post evaluation conducted in the course of the GEAR programme, suggests that it has an unmistakable effect in enhancing adolescents’ knowledge and in challenging (and changing) attitudes, perceptions and self-reported behaviours about IPV. Notably, after the programme’s implementation, gender stereotypical perceptions decreased, attitudes were shifted towards less tolerance of violence, recognition of controlling and abusive patterns in relationships was significantly enhanced while healthier perceptions about intimate partner violence were recorded. This constitutes the GEAR programme as an important and significant intervention in enabling adolescents build healthier relationships based on gender equality and in protecting themselves and others from abuse.
Moreover, as teachers acknowledged, the GEAR programme carries multiple benefits not only for students, but also for teachers and schools. According to the implementers’ evaluation, teachers not only enhanced their knowledge on issues related to gender stereotypes, gender equality, and intimate partner violence but significantly increased their capacities, skills and confidence in preventing, identifying and effectively handling cases of abuse in children and teens. Effectively, after the GEAR intervention, teachers are in a better position to protect their students. On the other hand, through the implementation of the GEAR programme, schools can better fulfil their fundamental role in fostering an inclusive environment which promotes respect for human rights, embraces universal values, equal opportunities, respect for diversity and non-discrimination, supports the social and emotional development of children and promotes the full development of the human personality and appreciation of human dignity.