Responses to questions arising from IPEDEHP case study



[*** MODERATOR'S NOTE: The week before last I compiled of the
questions raised to date by several of you who commented on the
IPEDEHP case study (Mike Wessells, Anne Anderson, Joanie Conors, Nora
Sveaass), translated them into Spanish and sent them to Rosa Maria
Mujica, the President of IPEDEHP and the principal architect of the
community leaders program which forms the focus of my case study.
Rosa Maria was kind enough to provide me with rapid turn-around
service.  Below are her responses to each of the questions, translated
into English for those of you who do not read Spanish. (I will be
sending Rosa Maria's response, in Spanish, in a separate e-mail for
those whose native language is Spanish.)

Since sending the e-mail to Rosa Maria and receiving her responses to
the questions posed in the e-mail, I have received some additional
questions. My plan is to hold off until all comments come in on the
IPEDEHP case study and then transmit to Rosa Maria these and any other
questions that she can respond to; reserving a side e-mail for me to
respond to several questions that have been asked on the study
methodology and results which are probably more appropriate for me to
address.

A parenthesis: I just returned from Guatemala where I used one of the
IPEDEHP games and the dynamics with Mayan parents (several who did not
speak Spanish and several of whom were illiterate) as a research tool
in a consultancy focusing on community participation in schools. I am
taking the liberty of including a few of the outcomes at the end of
this e-mail as they are quite relevant to several of the questions
that Rosa Maria addresses.

Rosa Maria,

thank you VERY much for your timely and extremely thoughtful responses
to the questions posed to you by members of the International Peace
Practicioners Network discussion group on psychologists and human
rights! ***]

QUESTION/COMMENT FROM MIKE WESSELLS

There are some cultural issues that need to be taken under
consideration.
 
Although the expression of sentiments may be relevant to healing and
emotional integration in some contexts, it could be that they are not
applicable from a universal perspective. Part of the art of building a
program on the culture of peace is putting oneself in contact and
working with local cultural beliefs.

ROSA MARIA'S RESPONSE:

- In the Peruvian reality, which is a reality that is plurilingual and
multicultural, we have worked with people from the most diverse
cultures and cosmovisions: quechuas, aymaras, people from the
highlands and who are farmers; individuals from native communities in
the jungle and individuals in the jungle who speak Spanish, people
from a more urban and citified culture. In spite of this we have found
a common denominator in the tremendous opening to the affective and
the artistic. To date, no one has demonstrated resistance to the
expression of the affective and of feelings, although each has done it
in his her/fashion y according to his/her own customs. The diversity,
far from generating problems, has united the participants and, through
the affective, the participants have found a mechanism for sharing.

- One of the participants at our recent course in Huancayo (one of the
areas most affected by the violence of past years) summarized it very
well when he said "Departing from art and the expression of our
feelings is the secret to the success of this workshop. It is for this
reason that we are all content, because we are all great artists and
we all have music and art in our veins."

- I wouldn't dare to say, with certainty, that this methodology would
function in other cultural contexts, but it is interesting to point
out that it is not necessary to have cultural uniformity, or to be
able to say that this approach corresponds more to the Western culture
than to another culture. Our experience demonstrates that the
methodology links up with that which is profoundly human: the
capability to feel, the need to be cared for and to care for others,
and valuing multiple ways of expressing one's feelings and caring.

QUESTIONS FROM ANNE ANDERSON:

1. I am impressed with what IPEDEHP has done to obtain participation
from the participants. But how do you get people in the door,
especially when they are going to have to deal with some very
difficult feelings? Are there some ways of explaining your methodology
so that participants are not intimidated?

2. The connections at the level of the communities and the
support/follow-up provided to the participants appear to be critical
factors in assuring a multiplier effect. How exactly are these
networks developed and maintained?  I would love to know how they
function.

3 It is important to know, in order to replicate the program, if
IPEDEHP has had experiences with people who have had difficulties with
expressing their feelings during the workshop and/or have had
emotional difficulties after the workshop. What aspects of the
workshop help avoid having this happen?  Are there ways of selecting
the participants in such a way as to avoid having this happen?

4. Anne is very impressed with the commitment generated by the
training and its multiplier effect after the training, Her concern
(shared by Mike Wessells and Nora Sveaass) is the political dangers of
this type of work.  Anne observes that we perhaps need to think about
how we help people who received this kind of training judge the kinds
of political situations they will find themselves in when we think of
replicating the IPEDEHP methodology in other contexts.

ROSA MARIA'S RESPONSES:

- The participants are invited based on their having been identified
as leaders in their communities. The demand to participate in the
training program is much larger than what we can accommodate. The
leaders do not expect that they will be working with their feelings
and, before coming, they know nothing about the methodology we use. It
is during the workshop that they start to work on the affective side
without pressure to do so and in an attractive and free environment
that is generated by the games and dynamics we select.

- The explanation of the methodology we use happens at the end of the
workshop, and it is the very same participants who point out the
characteristics of the methodology that they have lived and worked
through during the last three days. It is at this time that they begin
to pull it all together.

- Follow on support is provided through three mechanisms. The first
and most important is through the local counterparts, who accompany
the participants during the workshop and who, after the workshop,
periodically meet with the workshop graduates. The second is done by
IPEDEHP who meets with the leaders twice a year to evaluate their
progress to date, help them with future planning, and provide more in
depth information and training on certain topics. The third is the
responsibility of the project counterparts: the Human Rights
Ombudsman's Office and the National Coordinador for Human Rights. They
meet with the leaders each time they visit the zones in which they
reside they are at the disposition of the leaders to assist them in
the event that problems come up. In addition, each participant
receives, every two months, a bulletin that has an
informational/formative focus where they also share their
experiences. Finally, the annual meeting of the leaders which takes
place every year in Lima strengths their awareness that they are part
of a large network and it serves to further stimulate mutual support.

- We have had some problems; for example in some places people who
have attended our workshop have had traumatic experiences.  This,
however, has not been a limitation. We let the people who want to
share these experiences, giving them a glass of water or a big hug,
the silence of others being a means of expressing their respect. Those
who do not wish to talk do not do so. It is in the small groups,
especially throug the games, where everyone naturally speaks up as
they carry out the norms of the game. At the end of each workshop
there is not a person there who has not, at one time or another during
the workshop, voluntarily expressed his/her feelings. This occurs as
trust becomes established among the participants. We have not
encountered emotional problems after the training. What we have
noticed is that the behavior of each participant shows a strong sense
of self esteem, which at the beginning of the training did not appear
to be a central characteristic in some of them.

- The direct beneficiaries of the training are the community leaders
and the people who are closest to them: their families (especially
their children), friends, and indirectly members of the communities
who find in the leaders a place where they can get training and
support as well as assistance in resolving their problems.

- We are conscious of the political problems that can be generated due
to the work of the leaders after their training. In fact one of the
leaders recently was the victim of an attempted assault. It is for
this reason that both the Human Rights Ombudsman and the National
Coordinator on Human Rights immediately take on cases both of threats
and actual intents to harm. They publicly denounce them, do the
necesarry investigation, get the local mass media and other sources of
power involved. The National Coordinator on Human Rights, in addition,
provides psychological support to victims as well as medical and
economic support, when this is necessary. This, jointly with the
accompanyment which focuses on the affective, makes it possible for
the leaders not to abandon their work in human rights
promotion. Rather it strengthens their commitment as they do not feel
that they are alone but that others are ready to rally to their side
when they have difficulties. In the same fashion we try to do
everything possible to orient the community leaders who go through the
training not to provoke unnecessary confrontations or undertake
unnecessary risks.

QUESTION/COMMENT FROM JOANIE CONNORS

In my work in human rights in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico we had to
address so many challenges that affected our effectiveness.  Included
among them were: language barriers (many of the indgenous people did
not speak Spanish or their Spanish was at second grade level and it
did not include human rights terminology), lack of reading and writing
skills, problems with transportation and scheduling in remote rural
areas with poor roads or access only by foot, few telephones, cultural
barriers toward accepting womenís rights (the women were those who
least had the opportunity to go to school, and the least voice in
community affairs), rivalries, terror between sub-groups due to actual
roles and former roles during the period of violence.

I would love to know, in the Peruvian context, how problems endemic in
dealing with human rights issues (such as those listed above) were
dealt with and especially if you had to address problems similar to
those that we encountered in Central America.

ROSA MARIA'S RESPONSE:

- We also have had problems with diverse languages.  IPEDEHP has two
professionals who speak Quechua, but even then we do not have staff
who speak the languages of the indigenous tribes in the jungles. For
this reason in each workshop, and in a very spontaneous fashion,
translators are named within the different workgroups. This works very
well and does not seem to interfere with carrying out the
workshop. The groups present role plays in their maternal languages
and someone from the group translates for the rest of us so that we
can understand. The games have also been translated to Quechua as have
the materials from the Carpeta (which provides basic information on
the various rights, how to recognize when they have been violated, and
what can be done to defend each of them).

- We have reduced difficulties related to lack of literacy skills to a
minimum: we have a minimum of text and what is written in text is
written in a very clear and concise fashion. We lose in depth but we
gain in the ability to reach a broader base of participants. Clarity
and comprehension are more important and they are basic. We also use
index cards and markers

with thick tips to avoid having people, in individual exercises, write
long texts. They are obligated to only put their central ideas on
paper to share with others. We are conscious that these limitations in
no way affect the ability of the workshops participants to understand
the problems they are faced with and come up with solutions to these
problems. To the contrary, our experience has shown that there is a
great intelligence in each of the community leaders who attend the
workshops and that they have the capacity to understand even the
concepts that we believe are the hardest to understand, especially
when these concepts are linked with their day to day experiences there
is little difficulty in comprehension.

- Transportation problems in a country such as ours are very
serious. Many of the community leaders, in order to come to the
workshop, must travel 7 days by boat from their community to the place
where the workshop is delivered, given that navegation by boat is the
only means of communication in the jungles.  Others have walked more
than 20 hours due to absence of roads in the Peruvians highlands;
etc. For this reason we train people who work in their own
communities, and better yet, in their own organizations.

Many do precisely this, but there are always those who assume a larger
role and who decide, of their own volition, to go out to nearby
communities to share what they have learned. It is these cases that
are supported both by the counterpart institutions as well as the
groups benefited who provide food and a place for the leaders to
sleep. To the extent that the methodology they use is the same as that
which they learn at the workshop, there have been no cultural or
linguistic problems.

QUESTIONS FROM NORA SVEAASS

1.  Education in human rights clearly has a significant impact on the
participants and their networks in terms of increasing consciousness
and reflection related to the themes of human rights and human
dignity. While it was not possible to see this in Marcy's study, it
would be interesting to know outside of the multiplier effects
reported in her study--if there were other social initiatives as well?

2. Human rights were treated in an extensive fashion with regard to
violence, a major problem in Peru. But how were the themes of other
rights, such as the right to work, the right to have access to
education and health dealt with? It would appear logical that, once
there is increased consciousness about rights in general, social and
economic rights become clearer.

3. Like Mike and Anne I am concerned with the security of the workshop
participants. It appears to be very important to carry out a close
follow up of their situation and be ready to rapidly present protests
if something happens or if there are threats.

4. How were the issues of reconciliation and justice dealt with? As
this is an important process in a society in transformation, I would
like to hear some comments about how these themes were dealt with in
the workshop.  Were the themes of justice and impunity in some way
addressed both in the training and the follow-up?

5. In cases where individuals with different political perspectives
were trained in the same workshop, how were these differences dealt
with, either directly or indirectly?

6. The report mentions cultural sensibility and consciousness of
different cultural backgrounds, but how were the different traditions
and practices that exist in Peru's varied culture to deal with
conflict resolution and solving other problems dealt with in the
workshop and follow-up?

ROSA MARIA'S RESPONSES

- The community leaders have generated a number of social
iniciatives. One thing that does not appear in Marcy's study is that a
number, subsequent to the training, took on political positions in
their local governments as governors, leutenant governors, and
alderman in their municipalities.  This, jointly with the willingness,
on the part of some, to run for the Congress, has permited us to see
that their commitment goes as far es intervening in the political
ambiance, and not only in their communities but in that of their
country in general.

- The work done by the community leaders has an approximation to human
rights in its entirety and in an integral fashion. We give the same
emphasis in the training to the right to liberty, physical integrity,
and equality along with the right to housing, food, education, work,
etc. The community leaders elect in what specific areas they want to
become involved and they are very realistic in that respect. It is for
that reason that the majority become involved in cases of abuse
against children and women, educational quality, abuses of the
authorities, the promotion of human rights are, etc. They learn,
through their own experience, that it is not easy to find solutions to
the demands for health services and work, and they discover that in
the face of these types of needs or violations of needs that they can
often only act as mediators or third parties and not always
successfully, perhaps carrying out humanitarian acts and acts of
solidarity etc.

- One of the themes that the community leaders ask us to work with
them on is democratic resolution of conflicts. Some of this is done in
the follow up sessions after the workshop. However, I must point out
that here, over anything else, one needs to take into account the
great experience that the community leaders bring to the workshop as
effective leaders in their communities where they have had to serve as
mediators of many conflicts. In a judicial system as deficient as ours
is in Peru, the community leaders (along with the justices of peace)
are the communal references that people go to for assistance in
resolving community conflicts. They act, in a first instance, as
pre-legal counselors and, only when they are not capable of helping to
resolve problems or they are not successful in getting the parties to
the conflict to come to an agreement, is it when the conflict enters
into the legal/judicial realm.

- The themes of lack of justice and impunity are present throughout
the whole process of the training.  However, jointly with those, we
put a lot of emphasis on the need and ability of each and every one of
the participants to be agents of change. It is for this reason that,
through a self-analysis of the problems that they encounter and will
continue to encounter in their work, they strengthen their feeling of
capability and the develop strategies for facilitating changing the
status quo.

- In the groups we work with there are always political
differences. What is important is learning to respect and tolerate
different points of views, to dialogue in spite of differences. This
is part of the workshop from the moment it opens when participants
develop the norms of conduct that will guide their behavior throughout
the workshop. In these norms they put such items as "we will listen to
one another", "we will respect the opinions of others". When there is
in incident when a norm is violated we can always count on someone to
remind the group "remember the norms of conduct we agreed to". Every
morning we evaluate the norms to see which ones we carried out the day
before and which we didn't. This exercise permits us to evaluate
oursvelves and to foster the maturity of the group.

- It is important, nevertheless, to highlight that there is a
commonality in the values base among all participants. This means that
the tolerance that we expect and practice is based on the dignity of
all participants and that each is a human being. When that limit is
passed it is not possible to have tolerance.

- The theme of cultural sensibilities is present in the workshops from
what the participant brings to the workshop to what he/she
shares. Nevertheless, not all cultural practices are accepted in and
of themselves. For example, we do not tolerate the practice of hitting
and otherwise abusing children even if it is a cultural practice; we
question this and examine the impacts of child abuse. We also do not
tolerate the abuse that the "ronderos campesinos" (self-defense groups
that have been formed in the various communities to combat external
aggressions) impose on people who do not comply with the laws of the
rondas campesinas due to justifiable personal situations. For example,
a man accompanied his wife when she gave birth to their child and
didn't attend a community assembly meeting. Because of that he was
punished by being shut up in a cage for a day and a night, as the
norms of the rondas campesinas dictated.  That was HIGHLY
questioned. We took advantage of this instance to focus on the
communal norms that are to the benefit of human beings and communities
and the recognition that these norms need to be flexible.

Rosa Maria Mujica
Lima, June 11,
1999

ADDITION FROM MARCY

- I just returned from Guatemala where I used IPEDEHP's methodology as
a research tool to learn about what Mayan parents and teachers in
bilingual/intercultural schools in the Quiche region define as the
role of parents and the community at large in their children's
schools. I spent one day with about 12 Mayan parents (3 or 4 who could
not read and write; half of whom only spoke Q'iche'), and about 4
hours with about 20 teachers. In the case of the parents we started
with a few warm up dynamics, played the human rights game (with cards
that were adapted to the theme of parent participation), and then
followed up with an individual card creation/sorting activity:
basically the same sequence as the human rights module IPEDEHP uses
the first day of its course for leaders but adapted. We did the same,
but in a more synopsized fashion, with the teachers.

- What was particularly interesting, and relevant given the topics
dealt with above, was that: (a) language and lack of literacy skills
did not appear to be a barrier (as Rosa points out above, those who
were literate helped those who weren't, and without any specific
guidance on my part); (b) the game, which was a complete novelty (and
had some of my colleagues nervious as they thought that the Mayans
would be uncomfortable given that they were not accustomed to playing
games) was a tremendous success (they didn't want to stop playing when
the time came to wrap up and move on to the next activity); and (c)
the cards that most impressed those playing the game were those that
focused on the affective (e.g. "Tell about I time when you were in
school when your teacher made you cry"; "Describe a situation when you
saw a teacher treating a student unjustly"; "Recall what you most
liked about going to school") ie. as Rosa points out, when you get
into the affect you transcend cultural barriers.

- At the end of the game (this is part of the standard sequence) the
players are asked, in their small groups, to answer the following
questions:

(1) How did you feel when you were playing the game?
(2) What questions on the card and what answers most impacted on you?
(3) How did this game serve you?

 Among the answers to the first question, very similar to what IPEDEHP
has obtained in Peru with Ladino populations, Quechua populations,
Aymara populations, and indigenous populations in the jungles were
the following (selecting a few as highlights): "The game is nice, it
gets us to think, we don't do this in our homes. I saw it in a a
way that made me feel (forma sentida)"; "The time went quickly.  One
was always attentive. Playing we were concerned, it is an emotional
experience (es una emocion)", "A technique to exteriorize what we
feel, to use in order to see the abilities of the participants"; "I
thought that I couldn't participate in or play this game", "I felt
very good. There is liberty to act or answer, depending on the cards".

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