Monday, May 5, 2014

Unravelling the knots of oppression one tangle at a time- Part two

"Dear team, I am thinking in creating an alternative training in Kurdistan of Iraq....." .On the 10th of December, 2013 I received this email from our team's support co-ordinator, Milena R.  My initial reaction was , "that sounds great but there is no way on earth that this will happen in the time frame she is thinking of (February 2014). That is just not the way CPT works."

I arrived back in Sulaimani on 23 January and the interviewing of potential trainees started soon afterward. By early February the training was a surety for four trainees and with team mate Lukasz and I being put into the position of being trainers. This was a huge surprise for me. I trained with CPT in August 2010. The trainers seemed to be some sort of a mystery to me. They appeared to have knowledge and experience way beyond anything I could imagine to attain.

Adriana, Parwen, Juliane, Mohammed, Gosia,
Annika, Lukasz, Kathy


 Talking about moving out of comfort zones, an important
discussion for trainers and trainees alike.

 But, all of a sudden , beginning on 22 February, 2014, I was a trainer. I marvelled at the trust put in us. Lukasz and I provided the total input for the first 10 days. It was exciting to dig into the training manuals, something we both had not really done since our own time of learning. We found that we intuitively were using a lot of the information in our day to day work on the Iraqi Kurdistan team. Thus we were able to teach and facilitate sessions to help the four trainees to learn it too.

On day 12 Adriana, from Colombia,  joined the team. . She brought with her experience of being a regular trainer in the Chicago month- long trainings, as well as having facilitated the sessions on Undoing Oppressions. This is a regular and important part of the CPT trainings: Undoing racism, sexism and heterosexism as well as a day to think about how to be an ally.

For this training I had the unusual position of being the only one who had English as my first language. We had two Kurdish speakers, one Polish speaker, one German speaker and then on the training team: one Spanish , one Czech and a Swedish speaker . We had to often think how to work with vocabulary that was difficult to explain and/or understand in languages other than English. We had to break down concepts into smaller parts so all would be able to grasp what was being discussed.

We began to look at  undoing oppressions and how our cultures have taught us well who is more important or intelligent or worthy. I thought about the concept of "undoing" and immediately pictured my knitting. Often as I create a pair of socks the yarn becomes very tangled and knotty. If I just tug on the wool and don't take the time to undo it, the tangle just becomes even more entrenched and more difficult to work with. The only way to be able to knit with the wool is to start at the beginning and undo one tangle at a time.  Adriana added that undoing oppressions also has someone at the end that you have untangled working at remaking the mess again so you have to go back and untangle one knot at a time over and over again.

This was a session on learning about sexism. Here we each introduced a woman who was important to us and drew a representative picture.  Then we divided into gender groups and the women wrote about how sexism affects us in our lives and the men wrote about how sexism tells them that they are more worthy.  After this session, Juliane thought of taking our statements and placing them over our photos.

As the training went on we realised that no one of the team had any video making skills. So I stretched myself again to learn the rudimentary skills so I could put together a video of our time together. I am pretty pleased with my first attempt. 

After the training we all evaluated the five weeks. A quote from the written evaluation is ,
"Having trainers from the field was a big success: Knowledge coming from the people
who do the work on the field has a different weight and becomes more alive to
trainees by virtue of being based on recent life experience. Also, training
empowered the field CPTers to transmit their knowledge in ways that served as
markers of learned experience, at the same time that helped them revisit that
learning in ways that will most likely improve the quality of their future work."