At Exchange House we believe strongly that access to education and participation by Travellers is the single greatest measure that can break the cycle of disadvantage and social exclusion experienced by Travellers.Carmel Terry, Board of Management Exchange House (2009)
Considerable work still needs to be done to challenge Domestic Violence and it’s pervasiveness in our society and our culture. It’s true to say that some things are changing; e.g. yes it’s spoken about more; there are more services; counselling and support is available (not enough) but let’s be clear, there is still much fear, denial and reluctance to confront head on the level of Violence that women and children experience daily. We believe that working with Men is essential in challenging Domestic Violence – they need to be part of the solution.
Our EU Project Sunia Geel organised six seminars with Traveller men in Dublin, Cavan and Meath. Each seminar had 8 to 10 participants with men ranging in age from late teens to early forties and all of them were already engaged in further education or other projects. Education and increased awareness at community level one of the many ways we are working and challenging Domestic Violence and these seminars confronted the attitudes and behaviours engrained in Domestic Violence.
To date the work of Sunia Geel has been with professionals, women and families and it was demanding to embark on men only seminars. Initial concerns included whether firstly any men would turn up, secondly whether they would engage openly and honestly which is always an issue in a group but particularly when the issues being discussed are so sensitive. Groups sometimes can be dominated by one or two members or members completely opt out and silence ensues as the group communication. These scenarios however were not played out in these groups which may have something to do with the fact that the groups were already engaged together in other work.
We know that Domestic Violence knows no barriers with regards to class, age, ethnicity, religion and marital status but we also know that the main perpetrators are men – all men. It is not confined to any particular group or community.
A holistic response requires the participation and input from all members of society. The seminars with Traveller men provided the opportunity to include men as allies in fostering a society where safe and equal relationships free of abuse and Violence are the norm.
For more information about our EU Project Sunia Geel click here