Expertise needed to support project establishment and delivery
Internal steering committee
The internal steering committee consisted of Women’s Health West staff with expertise working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, young women’s leadership programs, and capacity building initiatives that prevent violence against women. The committee was integral in establishing the project, developing the session and training content, and monitoring the delivery of You, Me and Us.
Expert advisory group
The expert advisory group provided expertise in research and evaluation, prevention of violence against women, peer education approaches to working with young people, and local knowledge of the key settings for action, such as sporting clubs and primary schools. This group included external services.
Important considerations when establishing and maintaining a respectful relationships education expert advisory group include:
- Acknowledge the strengths and expertise within your organisation
- Identify the external knowledge, expertise and partnerships needed for successful project implementation
- Develop and share Terms of Reference (ToR) that detail the project timelines and key responsibilities of the expert advisory group
- Ensure meetings are well chaired, timely, action oriented, and have tangible outcomes
- Undertake work between meetings so members are able to contribute to new work each time they meet
- Review the ToR annually and conduct evaluation to ensure the group is meeting the project and participant needs
Group facilitation and training principles
Creating a safe space
Creating a safe group dynamic is crucial to ensuring participants feel free and supported to discuss sensitive topics and provide alternate points of view. To establish a safe group dynamic for participants aged 10 to 13 years, facilitators ask participants to describe what they understand a safe space to be and what the group could do to support this. Group rules for creating a safe space are also included in the session for 18 to 24 year olds, which are referred back to at the start of each session as a reminder of the collective agreement. It is important for facilitators to be non-judgemental and appreciate participants’ diverse experiences and opinions.
Core principles for creating a safe, respectful group dynamic:
- Active listening
- Respecting the comments, opinions and beliefs of each other
- Support and collaboration. It is important to ask that participants only share their own opinion and not the personal experiences or stories of others. It is also important to clearly state that if participants have a personal experience they want to discuss further, a teacher, staff member or counsellor is available after the session.
Sessions designed for 10 to 13 year olds are interactive and focus on active participation. They draw on a range of facilitation styles to meet different learning needs. The sessions promote young people’s active participation through group discussion, role-play and interactive songs and videos. Role play is useful for supporting young people with practical tools and ideas to respond to challenging situations in a safe and supported space.
The 18 to 24 year old session material was developed in consultation with peer educators. To support different learning styles, the session integrates a number of different tools, including interactive activities, case studies, a video, self-reflection and small group activities. Informed by adult learning principles, this session is structured and facilitated in a way that promotes self-directed learning and acknowledges the experiences of adult participants.
Facilitators need to be inclusive in their delivery, language and approach, have a thorough understanding of the material content, and prepared for how to articulate complex concepts relating to gender and assertive behaviour using brief and simple statements.
Facilitators needs be active listeners, and be aware of (and, where necessary, respond to) people’s verbal and non-verbal communication cues. This assists in gauging the comfort level of participants during the discussion of sensitive topics. The facilitator needs to encourage open discussion directed by participants, while highlighting the key session messages. Flexibility and responsiveness is a key strategy.
Facilitating with a peer educator
The level of support needed by a peer educator to effectively prepare and deliver a respectful relationships education session may vary. Before the session, take time to plan and discuss with the peer educator how you can best work together and which activities you will each lead. Ideally, session delivery is divided between the peer educator and project worker.
Referral and responding to young people’s disclosure
It is important that a strategy is designed prior to the sessions relating to managing and responding to young people’s disclosures. At the beginning of each session, articulate to participants who they can access if they require further support and the process for following up with student concerns or disclosures. It is vital that contact details and referral pathways for support services are provided to young people. If a participant attempts to disclose during a session, the facilitator should protectively interrupt and ensure the participant is followed up with after the session.
Protective interrupting is interrupting participants when they begin to disclose private and sensitive information (Prendiville, 2008). For example, ‘this sounds like a really important and personal issue for you, why don’t we discuss it further after the session?’ Good boundaries ensure emotional safety for all participants. More information on boundaries and emotional safety can be accessed in the program manual.