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Principles to guide the Kit
Thoughts behind the contents

The goal of the educational kit is to get men and boys thinking about their and others’ actions and attitudes; to get them to change their actions, and to challenge violent actions by other men or boys.  The ultimate goal of working against male violence against women is to change society in such a way that a campaign against male violence against women is not needed.

An educational kit designed to educate on male violence against women – and by so doing, to help to eradicate it – is part of a greater project aimed at establishing a culture of peace.  Eliminating gendered violence is a key, if not the key, to bringing about such a culture of peace.

Violence exists in both overt and structural forms, and has permeated our culture for centuries.  Much of this structural violence is invisible, and permeates society.  Those working to eliminate violence – and especially men working against male violence committed against women – need to take great care, therefore, to avoid unconsciously perpetuating the very system that they are working to eliminate.

The principles set out below are a combination of ethical formulation and operational imperative.  They are necessary, but not necessarily sufficient in themselves, to avoid making these mistakes.  They should inform decisions taken in working towards developing an educational kit.

Radical social change, of the kind that would have to happen for male violence, especially against women, to be eliminated, cannot happen by revolution or decree – it will happen by evolution, and over time.  This means that a set of guiding principles that all can agree on is a very important reference point.

A set of principles should facilitate the reaching of the goal of a peaceful society.  Like monastic life in Buddhism, however, care must be taken that what is in the beginning a facilitating feature not become an impediment later on.

Principle 1: 
Positive peace is the goal

Peace is more than ‘pax,’ an absence of war.  It is positive peace, a concept implying neither saccharine friendliness nor uniformity, but rather absence of violence in both actions or relationships.  Violence against women by men is based to a large degree on the casual and often unconscious objectification of women.  Living in a state of positive peace requires development of a state of being in which each person is treated as a subject rather than an object.

Principle 2: 
Violence is not inevitable

The belief that violence is inevitable makes it easier to justify and accept violence against others, in a wide variety of situations – especially male violence against women.  Violent images are used very often, in all elements of life, and the belief that violence is inevitable has an almost mythical-religious base.  There is evidence that potential for aggression is inherent in humans, but aggression is not the same thing as violence.  Conflict is not the same thing as violence, though they are often confused.  Conflict is an important element of social change.  Society can live with conflict, but not with violence.

As far as education is concerned, violence is perpetuated through the education system by what has been called the ‘banking’ system of education – the teacher depositing knowledge into students, which is received, memorised and later repeated.  The educational kit developed for the Euro WRC must avoid pedagogical banking; and therefore develop tools that are interactive, encouraging those using them to think for themselves.

The kit will be used in diverse situations.  Whether a ‘facilitator’ will introduce the kit or whether the kit will be used by people within each workplace is an important question: either way, care must be taken that each individual component of the kit avoids ‘banking.’

Principle 3: 

All involved in the WRC project are at risk of perpetuating the violence they are working against.  This has two concrete meanings:

  • those facilitating and/or designing the educational kit should examine themselves and their motives to the fullest extent possible.
  • All tools in the education kit should encourage self-reflexivity in those using them.  If a tool in the kit results in understanding but no integration of this understanding into change in everyday lived practice of the users, then it will have failed to fully achieve its aim.  Encouraging change in individuals is the goal of an education kit, and this will not be reached without a measure of reflexivity.

Tools in the kit also need to focus on wider society.

Principle 4: 
Communicative action

If discourse resulting in social norms or imperatives for action are ethical, each person involved in or affected by the creation of a particular norm has the right to take part in its creation.  Simply put, all affected must create a norm if it is to be valid.  They must be able to challenge the claim to validity of particular statements of social norms.

No individual person or group is competent to construct acceptable norms that affect a wider society than those involved in their creation.  For existing norms, this means that those affected have the right to assent or dissent, though they are obliged to give compelling reasons for dissent.  An intersubjectively recognised norm is not valid if the space does not exist for it to be brought into question in a way that allows all affected to argue their case and to be convinced of the rightness – or moral force – of the norm.

This has clearly not been the case for the social norms that allow violence against women, who have typically been excluded from their generation.

The tools developed for the educational kit should therefore avoid assuming agreement on normative claims.  They should encourage men to enter into peaceful, non-violent, dialogue with women over social norms, that is open to changing these norms.

Principle 5: 
Attention to narrative

The tools developed should encourage users to become aware of the ‘stories’ that are embedded in the language that we use, and which partly structure the way that we see and interpret the world.  When we talk of anything, we draw on shared meanings, and the underlying assumptions of these shared meanings regulate what is visible and correct.

For example, Freud and his contemporaries did not take child abuse seriously, believing that reports of abuse were not literally true.  Now we know that child abuse actually does occur.

Paying attention to the narratives that we use is a way of laying these underlying assumptions bare.  Changing the stories will allow for a change in reality.  Huxley said that the first thing that educators need to do is to heighten the resistance of young people against the “devices of propagandists.”  The educational tools need to do exactly this, by encouraging the analysis of words being used in the media and other arenas of society.

Principle 6: 
Concern for the other

This involves seeing each person as a subject in his/her own right, and not reducing them to their usefulness.  It means seeing oneself as part of a community, that one cannot exist without the other.  One therefore has a level of responsibility for the other.

Tools in the kit should encourage this view.

Principle 7: 
Creative critique

We have many possible futures.  Simply recognising the problems of violence against women is not enough: there also needs to be the realisation that change is possible.  Using the tools in the education kit should leave the users feeling a sense of possible action.  It should avoid generating the ‘fallacy of restricted alternatives’ which young people so often feel and which leaves them apathetic.

To encourage creative critique, tools should expand the ‘literacy’ of those that use them; should aim to expand social imagination to beyond what seems immediately possible.  Literature is a good example of how creativity can be encouraged in critique.

Principle 8: 

If the tools are to be used by many different people in numerous situations, they should be as simple as possible.

Bearing in mind that many people do not have access to computers and the internet, an educational tool that can be used by all, in an variety of settings, is absolutely necessary.  This means a number of ‘low-tech’ tools.

Contents - What would be the ideal contents of an education kit?

Note that the kit would be used in one or both of two situations – with or without a facilitator.  With a facilitator is more resource-intensive and would involve a manual, but may be more effective.  In schools, the facilitator would probably be an interested teacher.

Note also that the exact contents of the kit would vary according to the target users – so the version for use in schools would have to be slightly different from the version used in the workplace, if only because the specific concerns would be different.  Also, the place of the kit within the setting needs to be clear – if it is in a school, for example, will it be part of the syllabus so that teachers can set assignments, or will it be something that one or more of the teachers will undertake to introduce in their classes?  So: the exact contents of the kit cannot be described or discussed until the ‘audience’ is clear – who will participate, etc.

Another question is whether the tool would be used in all-men settings, or whether it would be used in mixed-sex settings.  I favour both approaches, ideally, but men-only groups if only one focus is possible.  Suggestions below are therefore made with men-only groups in mind.

Some non-exhaustive suggestions follow

Integration of those aspects of the Canadian “Education and action kit” manual that are applicable to Europe.

Cards with common statements and/or actions that occur in society.

    • Pairs of participants would choose a card: each take a card and role-play.  One man to act as the man and the other as the woman; the goal being for the man role-playing to put himself in the position of the woman.  The partners would then take another card and swap roles.
    • Variation: this time role-play involves one man playing his close female relative – wife, mother, daughter etc

Video/s depicting social situations.  It/they would be the starting point for discussion.


Collection of best practice from all over Europe – presented in short written form, and/or in visual form.

Web-site address(es)

Confronting men with the results of actions, both ‘harmless’ and overtly violent: short stories from women of their experience.

Pictures – the picture of a bride with a black eye is extremely powerful, and similar pictures provide an immediacy that is difficult to reach with words only.  Presentation of pictures would have to be followed with discussion.

Cards with pictures.  Similar to above.  The question would be to interpret the situation depicted.  A few possible answers could be included.

Value-barometer (only with facilitator).  Participants stand in middle of room.  Facilitator makes a statement and participants then physically position themselves in the room according to the level with which they agree with the statements: one side of the room denotes “strongly agree” and the other side, “strongly disagree.”  Facilitator then asks random participants to explain their position.

Role-play involving two male characters – one with authority and with none: to show the role of power in structured violence.

Note that non-physical tools would be included in a manual: this is therefore a tool in its own right.

Note also that no change will occur unless the male participants feel themselves to be both in a safe space and accepted: without these elements there will be no change in behaviour.


The White Ribbon Education Kit


1. The need for a gender-based approach

How do we encourage peaceful relations today?  If we want to engage people in educational approaches which facilitate a change to peaceful relations, then we have to make our programmes relevant to those we are trying to reach; as well as to any facilitators involved.  Not only must it be relevant to the daily lives of all involved, it must also be a useful ‘line,’ which encourages the peaceful relations we are trying to build.

We argue that an overtly gendered approach is a good way to go about this in contemporary society.  Why?  There are two main reasons.

First, the differences and divisions – both perceived and real – between male and female are among the fundamental issues in contemporary society, and they are perennial and universal. 

Gender is typically at the core of people’s identity.

And gender identity, discrimination and violence are among the main barriers to a society which is sustainably and positively peaceful. 

So it makes sense to take a gendered approach when trying to foster a peaceful society through education.

Second, a gendered approach is also extremely interesting.  Whether a particular approach is aimed at young or old, the issue of gender attracts people’s attention.  People are therefore more likely to be interested and to want to become involved in a gendered educational project.

The Québec authorities responsible for educational approaches like STOP/VIRAJ have found that those approaches based on conflict reduction alone attract very few males, whereas those with an explicitly gendered approach tend to be far more gender-balanced.  The gendered approach is particularly relevant to adolescents, who typically want to learn more about what they have been brought up to regard of as the ‘other’ (the other sex).

As males are statistically far more often involved in physical violence, and as partner abuse by men is a huge problem, it is extremely important to adopt an educational approach which encourages males to be involved.

WRC-Europe’s Belgian partner; who has done some gender-based work in schools, has found that the gendered approach does not work if the facilitators are women. When only women facilitate a gender-based educational intervention, almost no males participate (the vast majority – over 90% – of participants in this voluntary project are female); while when a woman and a man facilitate together, many more males choose to participate. It seems that males, especially adolescents, need role-models to encourage them if they are to want to become involved, and to take responsibility for gendered violence.

One final point is worth noting: it is important to adopt a good educational approach, and a gendered balance in facilitation: otherwise the work risks backfiring and being seen by participants as a waste of time.  This is one reason for compiling the kit

2. About this kit

This education kit is a resource for those interested in pursuing education on gender-based violence: these could be teachers, NGO workers, city and local authorities, or policymakers.


It should be seen as a ‘starter-pack’, which makes available a set of useful information and shows the interested reader how to go further.  Its purpose is to advertise the existence of tools and the importance of a gender-based approach, rather than to propose one or more ‘one-size-fits-all’ tools for use across Europe.


The kit therefore sets out the general principles by which educational initiatives to counter gender-based violence should operate.  We felt it important that the kit start with a set of basic principles, as it is from basic principles that peace-building projects stand or fall.  The principles set out here are, we believe, necessary for any educational process which works towards sustainable peace, and which hopes to avoid recreating the existing problems in a different form.  Education on gender-based violence is surely one important part of educating for more peaceful futures for us all.


After the general principles have been set out, the kit provides a brief overview of two useful gender-based educational approaches for schools presently available in Canada.  This country is investing significant resources to tackling the malignant problem of gender-based violence and must be seen as a leader in this field.


We then provide an overview of what electronic resources are presently available to those interested in pursuing the issue.  The kit lists a number of audio-visual resources available across Europe.  Although these are primarily targeted at school-level interventions, there are also resources available to those wanting to work elsewhere, such as in the work-place.


The electronic version of the kit mentions a number of other educational projects, in some cases including a number of pages from the respective manual which has been scanned and made available.  One such programme is worth particular mention – STOP (En) /VIRAJ (Fr) – a project in two languages for younger children from the Québec regional government in Canada.  It is widely used in schools in Québec and is already being applied in some Belgian schools by the Euro-WRC’s Belgian Partner, Collectif de la Louvière.  Euro-WRC has been given full rights to this programme for educational purposes.

We have produced the kit primarily in English and French, with some documents in other languages where possible.  We have left it up to our partner organisations across Europe to translate it into their own native languages.

There is clearly a wide scope for a far more comprehensive education kit, which devises a thoroughly-researched set of programmes based on European realities and circumstances.  We believe the kit at hand is a good start, however, and we hope you find it useful.

Draft from
Roland Mayerl and Stephanos Anastasiadis
Brussels, November 2000

Guide to existing education methods

Two existing methods are briefly described below.  The Youth Relationships Project is included as it is a high-quality, research-based programme.  And the Canadian White Ribbon kit is a good example of an education kit produced by a campaign-based organisation, with the input of experienced teachers.  


Youth Relationships Project

What is it?

The Youth Relationships Project – YRP – is designed to address the contexts of violence and thereby reduce its occurrence.  It especially targets the use of violence against women.  It works through interventions at school-level which encourage equitable and peaceful relationships between individuals; not least by helping young people understand power, power processes and the abuse of power.

The project’s goals are gender-specific: it is designed to help young men identify and express feelings assertively, recognise and respect personal rights of partners and take responsibility for their own behaviour.  The programme is meant to help young women understand their personal rights, take care of their own safety and express themselves assertively.

The YRP was developed by a team of researchers based at the University of Western Ontario, London (Canada), in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children, in the same town.  Most of the research team are psychologists.  A manual has been developed for the application of the project in schools.

Who is it for?

The YRP has been designed for use in schools.  It focuses on male and female adolescents between 14 and 16 years of age.

Brief overview

The project runs on a voluntary basis, either during or after school-hours, and is based in the school setting.  It has been designed to be conducted on a weekly basis with small groups of students – both male and female, numbering between 8 and 15 per group.  Each session runs for two hours, and the whole project contains 18 weekly sessions.  The programme developers emphasise strongly that the full programme and all sessions need to be followed.

The strong youth focus (the manual calls it a ‘teen-centred environment’) means the group is to be kept informed and consulted about the entire process, and that the group’s wishes are to be respected: the group belongs to the participants.  This is because, as the programme developers stress, “More important than the content of information and skills is the integrity of the facilitators in their modelling of non-controlling communication” (pp8-9). 

There are four sections, each one progressing from the more general to the more specific.  Section A is “Violence in close relationships: It’s all about power.”

Section B: “Breaking the cycle of violence: What we can choose to do and what we can choose not to do”

Section C: “The contexts of relationship violence” 

Section D: “Making a difference : Towards breaking the cycle of violence”

The last section is the longest, containing seven sessions each dealing with concrete actions to combat violence.


The YRP is based on thorough research: the project has been shown to work.

It is very clear in its rationale and explanations, and concrete in its recommendations for class actions.

It contains good opportunities for evaluation; as part of an ongoing improvement process.

The manual is self-sufficient in written material: a facilitator needs no more written material than what is included in the manual, with some exercises even being intended for photocopying and distribution.


The project is expensive, containing six videos in addition to the manual.  Perhaps these would be available in local libraries in north America, but not in Europe and they would anyway need adaptation (see below).

The very features which make it a powerful model for those who participate (highly structured, many sessions, voluntary basis) also make it more likely to discourage all but the most interested; thereby decreasing the number of people it reaches and almost certainly not reaching those who are most at risk of displaying violent behaviour.

The modules call for a lot of preparation, in some cases involving bringing in extra people; and for six sessions requiring the extensive involvement of community agencies.  This may prove too much of a time burden on potential facilitators for them to undertake the (extracurricular) project.  Also (and this is not relevant to the EU setting), the agencies called for may not exist; or if they do, may be unwilling or unable to provide input to the project.

Compatibility in Europe

The YRP deals with issues which are universal in the western world, so the approach and issues raised, as well as the vignettes mentioned in the manual are imminently applicable to the European setting.  The only issue is therefore the recommended materials: translating and adapting the videos will prove expensive and therefore need some form of government funding.

Final comments

This is a well-researched and powerful programme.  Its main weakness is that it is long and potentially expensive.  The strong research basis of the project and the research background of the developers means the project has been carefully thought out and is therefore likely to work powerfully with those who choose to participate.

White Ribbon, Canada, education kit

What is it?

The Canadian White Ribbon Campaign, WRC, education and action kit is designed to address the range of issues around violence to women.  It is meant to inform teachers and students alike; and to empower them to work against violence against women.  The goal is to encourage healthy gender relationships between adolescents, which will carried over into later life.  The focus is therefore specifically both social and individual.  As its name suggests, it is specifically designed to encourage activism in those it touches.

The kit, which is made up of a book of just over 100 pages, is meant to be used progressively, to move from understanding to action.  It was made with significant teacher involvement.

Who is it for?

The kit is designed for use in secondary schools with both male and female students.

Brief overview

The Canadian WRC manual is pragmatic and action-focused.  It is concerned with participants getting a good enough understanding of the issues, and moving to action in their everyday lives.  To this end, it appends some useful resources at the end of the manual, such as additional information on the problem and a section on what every man can do to help end violence against women.

The book is split into four parts.  The first provides the context to both students and teachers, giving an overview of the problem, giving ideas on possible action, and tips to the teachers on how to approach classroom discussions.

The second part deals with the issue of male violence against women, with one or more activities per heading.  Headings include: socialisation; gender communication; sex stereotyping; sexual harassment; and dating violence.

The third part is action focused.  Once the student has been introduced to the issues, the “Moving forward” section has five activities which students undertake to encourage action in everyday life against gendered male violence.  These fall under headings on violence prevention; healthy relationships; and what are women and men doing?

The final part is a set of plans for possible action which individual students or groups can undertake.  It is a set of concrete templates for social action on the local level.

The appendices include additional resources, information about the Canadian WRC and an evaluation form.  This latter is important, as the kit is open to constant improvement based on users’ experiences.

Strong points

The kit is strongly action-focused. Its aim to foster understanding and then action means it addresses the issue in a very practical way; making it widely accessible.

The kit is very widely available.  While this is also a weakness (see below) the fact that it is accessible to all means that, in theory, it can have a wide influence.

The kit is inexpensive: the book costs only a nominal fee and no other materials are required.

It is short and easy-to-use.

Weak points

The kit casts its net very wide, attempting to reach as many people as possible; and there is a resulting lack of clarity and focus in its approach.  It is therefore strongly dependent on the individual teacher/facilitator for the quality of the programme in each individual school.  While this will always be the case with educational approaches for which there is no formal teacher-training; the large amount of flexibility students and teachers have in the project, mean there is little guarantee of success.

It is not clear when the programme would be introduced; resulting in the teacher deciding whether to introduce it after school hours for volunteers; or to bring it into a ‘general studies’ class.  Again, this is strongly teacher-dependent. The success of the programme will also depend on the specific school system, into which it is being introduced.

The Canadian WRC manual is too concentrated on the annual white ribbon day, December 6,

The manual is very Canadian, resulting in a number of compatibility problems for European contexts.  See below for details.

Compatibility in Europe

The kit is strongly action focused, addressing everyday problems such as dating violence. While this is a significant strength, making the kit relevant to students, it also means there are ‘translation’ problems.  As the kit is strongly Canadian, it is at risk of failing to deal with specific everyday problems and issues experienced by European teenagers. 

The kit will need adaptation for European realities.  This could be easily done by teachers, but they would need to take the time to do so before starting to use it.

The specific actions suggested in the section on action plans – such as the “in the name of love” dance – are very North American and would be inappropriate in most European contexts.

All statistics given as examples are Canadian: the relevant European or even national statistics should be given instead.  Having said that, Canada and the EU are both western areas, so the Canadian statistics could be used as an illustration until the relevant European figures have been found.

The kit was produced in French and English in Canada.  The language used in the French version of the kit was so different from European French, however, that we decided to re-translate it from the original English. All the general intricution has been also translated in German.

Final comment/s

A good overall introduction to violence and control issues, the manual can easily be used with few resources.  The political and campaigning background of the Canadian White Ribbon organisation means it has been designed with immediate application in mind and is cheap to implement.

Overview of electronic resources

See websites eurowrc + CD-ROM

Final comments on existing education tools

One of the most useful aspects of all approaches reviewed here is that it shows violence is unexceptional: that is, it is something which permeates everyday life and needs therefore to be addressed by everyone in normal life and not just leaders or project-makers.

This has to be a key aspect of every approach which tries to deal with the question of violence in society – both in general and against women in particular – and especially in contemporary European society, where uncertainties and technological changes can easily give young people the feeling that they lack personal agency and therefore responsibility.

Other general principles have been mentioned at the start of this paper, but in dealing with young people, the principles of reflexivity, or taking responsibility for one’s own actions, is perhaps the most important.

This paper sets out a set of simple but crucial principles which it is argued need to be consciously borne in mind for any peace-building process to be successful, with sustainable results.  They are a good tool, but may not be sufficient in themselves: the point of writing them is not to appear arrogant, but rather to stimulate a debate in the perceived lack of one.


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