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FIFTEEN MEN WHO once faced the courts for offences ranging from threats to actual bodily harm have now completed a psycho-education intervention programme, designed to help alter their behaviour and develop non-violent ways of dealing with their anger.
The programme, entitled Partnership for Peace, is offered under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, and has been in operation from 2009.
Programme coordinator Hilkiah Hinds described it as “an educational course designed to help participants examine their personal response ... and to use their mind and emotions to avoid violent behaviour”.
He stressed that the Partnership for Peace, which is enforced by the courts as a mandatory alternative to imprisonment or monetary fines, is “educational and not group therapy”, and requires participants to engage in role-playing sessions and other activities.
The topics discussed over the course of the programme include manhood and conflict resolution, effective communication, and understanding and managing feelings.
Hinds added that it also touches on power and control in relationships; sexuality; STIs and HIV prevention; spirituality; and domestic violence and the law.
To date, 90 participants have completed the programme, with an estimated 10 to 12 males participating in each cycle, usually held once a year.
As the programme targets males who have one thing in common – their experience with domestic violence – the ages of participants vary vastly. However, the coordinator revealed that the youngest age recorded was 18 years old, while the oldest was 62 years of age.
All participants are required to attend a session each week for 16 weeks, a component of the programme which Hinds said the Ministry is hoping to change in the near future.
“We’re attempting to tweak or alter it, to enhance effectiveness, reason being that two-hour lessons, once a week, can be disconnected, so we would like to have two sessions per week,” he explained.
Speaking to attendance, the programme coordinator said that while provisions are made for emergencies or special circumstances, participants are only allowed to be absent from a maximum of two sessions.
“If you miss more than two sessions, you’re out! The court is informed that the person is no longer on the programme, and the court decides what action will be taken against that person,” he pointed out.
Over the course of the programme, each participant is observed by a clinical psychologist, who sits in on each session and takes notes, all of which are compiled into monthly reports. While these reports are for record keeping within the Ministry, most importantly they are used by the court as a “quality assurance tool”.
When asked about the success rate of the programme, Hinds said the attendance and the exit interviews of the participants “speak to the success of the programme”.
“From the exit interviews…the perceptions of the participants were that they felt it was useful. It gave them the opportunity to understand things differently … and to approach situations and problems with more skill,” he noted.
Despite this, however, Hinds, who has been overseeing Partnership for Peace within the Ministry for several years, said he believes it should be revamped and expanded to meet “the real needs of people”.
“I think the whole underpinning of the programme ought to be made available nationwide, as basic social skill development. For example, things like conflict resolution, effective communication, manhood and womanhood, expectations, responsibilities, sexuality, STDs, substance abuse prevention, spirituality; these are all issues that, for me, underpin the socialisation of every citizen,” he asserted. He also believes a programme of this kind is critical for young persons, and should be present in the school system; whether replacing the current counselling programmes or to simply enhance them.
“This particular programme, however, is a good start, but it cannot remain holstered in such a narrow scope. We wouldn’t have to see, for example, a person 15 years old, coming to the courts three years later with anger management issues and such.”
While there is a system in place to assess participants and their journey and success throughout the programme, Hinds also had suggestions regarding this structure.
“It may need to be revamped with certain benchmarks and criteria, so you know this is the aspirational goal, and can demonstrate that the person has benefitted from the programme based on certain principles. I think that would help to refine [it],” he suggested.
The Partnership for Peace programme is a joint venture between the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development. (BGIS)