It seems like the topic of conversation this week has been communication. All of the Candler interns are realizing the difficulties associated with not understanding the native language. As an intern plopped in a foreign country or as a refugee seeking a new life and livelihood in a neighboring country or island, each has difficulties with communication. Kerr and I have run into roadblocks in communication when trying to speak with our Indonesia colleagues, ordering food, and even expressing ideas to each other. Yesterday afternoon as I chatted with three women about their IRD sponsored project, I realized that good communication not only helps you express ideas and order the right food, but that communication can be a tool for decreasing violence.
For the past 6 years KPKP-ST, a local group advocating for women’s equality in Central Sulawesi, has been working on mitigating violence against women in the Poso district. They have hosted hundreds of community discussions allowing women to articulate their concerns and together formulate solutions. The women of KPKP-ST recognized the importance of communication in problem solving, especially in an area recovering from conflict. I can’t imagine a more constructive way to ease tension, communicating and understanding one another’s views, opinions and beliefs.
Over the last three months KPKP-ST has been disseminating information in more than 30 villages to increase awareness and skills in reporting cases of violence against women and children. KPKP-ST has also opened more than 30 Village Information and Reporting Centers for Victims of Violence against Women and Children. These homes, voluntarily offered by members of the community, serve as safe locations for female victims to receive both legal and communal support following cases of domestic violence. In the few short months this program has been running, KPKP-ST staff has seen a decrease in domestic violence and family fighting in the Poso District. With the program comes an increase in community knowledge and increased family conversation, so there is more protection and awareness.
Along with being a safe house, these village reporting centers are heavily used as a resource by both women and men to discuss household concerns. Community members feel comfortable using the centers’ volunteers as mediators, assisting families with issues of communication, child rearing, and increased stress and tension. Community members even refer their friends and neighbors to the center, claiming it is an excellent recourse and place for families. These centers are being utilized by community members as a preventative measure, offering families a place to communicate long before domestic violence occurs.
As I was returning from the visit yesterday, I was reflecting on the impact and success of these reporting centers. Originally designed as a place for women to find assistance in reporting cases of violence, these homes are being used before physical violence transpires. Can you imagine what our communities in America would be like if we had village centers offering free guidance and mediation in household spats? How much better would men, women and children communicate with one another if they were freely given tools and examples of positive communication styles? Would our domestic violence shelters be empty if from the first point of tension, stress or anger, people were given a safe and unbiased forum to discuss their thoughts and concerns? Colossians 4:6 reads “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I wonder how our churches and zillion small groups could help facilitate this process, communicating, truly listening, and responding to one another.
Simple communication is decreasing violence against women in Central Sulawesi, and I think this method could and probably should be replicated in our own communities.