My alternative title for this is “Such a Successful Workshop that People Actually Showed Up in Spite of Not Having Enough Food and Drinks” but that seemed a little wordy.
People loooooove going to workshops in Botswana. After attending few, I understand why to some extent. You usually get meals, occasionally you get per diem and lodging, and it’s an excuse to skip out of your regular job. Sometimes though, workshops can be very dry. There can be a lot of talking at you, for hours. And hours. This is especially rough when you speak little Setswana, but based off the sleepy Dikgosi, I think everyone feels this way. So really, most people go to workshops for the free lunch. Hopefully they usually take at least something away from it too, but I do feel that food is a big motivation for attendance. So the fact that the workshop was over capacity and we ran out of food and drinks… and yet people stuck around resonates.
Our theme was ‘Family Bonding,’ meaning we focused on healthy relationships between couples and parents and children, in a whole variety of aspects. I planned sessions relating to HIV and co-planned/facilitated (with the help of several wonderful translators) introductory sessions, gender based violence, healthy relationships, and pre/post tests. People were actually engaged in all of the sessions and willing to discuss, even debate, during the activities. Organizing these types of events can be very hit or miss, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into it. It helps that we had a really great group of facilitators, a few people that I’ve worked with before and a couple of people that I am so excited to work with again. I also think that there are very few opportunities for community members, especially adults, to discuss their relationships in an open manner like the workshop provided. Whatever the reason… the subjects struck a nerve and honest, open discussion poured out.
At the end of the workshop a man, who had told me several months ago that babies are made solely out of semen and women are simply carriers of the fetus, made the comment (well based off the translation) “I really hope that more workshops like this one continue in this village. I have learned so much about why I have difficulties in some of my relationships. This workshop has pointed out some bad habits and given me a lot to think about.” If that isn’t validation, I don’t know what is. Planning this workshop has been pretty stressful and fairly disorganized; I was nervous about getting up in front of a group of adults (as opposed to behind the scenes work or talking with kids), many of the village Kgosis, people I buy my airtime and onions from, and the community volunteers I work with regularly and presenting to people in Setswinglish and asking them to get up and discuss some tough and uncomfortable topics. It was really wonderful to have a project work out so well, when too often projects have come up against barriers time and time again. We are also doing the same workshop in two neighboring villages, and hopefully we will see the same response.