UKZN Academic Represents SA at Conference in Ireland
The Academic Development Officer for the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences, Ms Benina Mkhonto, was at the University of Maynooth in Ireland for a week representing South Africa at the Alternative to Violence Project International (AVPI).
Mkhonto, who also attended a pre-Conference on Discernment which is an advanced AVP training event, was selected for the opportunity through the AVP KZN-Network management committee via the nomination process. The trip was sponsored by the government of Ireland and the AVPI Board. At the conference she facilitated two workshops on AVP in schools and at universities.
AVP is a training programme that enables participants to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways. Mkhonto said workshops were experiential, non-residential and run by trained facilitators.
‘Our workshops use the shared experience of participants, interactive exercises, games and role-play to examine the ways in which we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behaviour and violence,’ said Mkhonto.
According to Mkhonto, an AVP workshop can help participants manage strong feelings such as anger and fear; deal more effectively with risk and danger; build good relationships with other people; communicate well in difficult situations; recognise skills they already have and learn new ones, and understand why conflict happens.
She said AVP was a network of volunteers running workshops for anyone who wanted to find ways of resolving conflict without resorting to violence. The project organisers work in the community and in prisons.
‘The thinking behind AVP is that we understand that conflict is a natural and normal part of life, and that it is possible to learn new ways of handling it. By holding workshops in which the participants consider the underlying causes of friction and violence, practical ways of dealing with situations of conflict are worked out,’ said Mkhonto.
The workshops build on everyday experiences and are designed to help people move away from violent or abusive behaviour by developing other ways of dealing with conflicts.
‘They help us to increase the respect we have for ourselves and others,’ Mkhonto said.
AVP began in a New York prison in 1975 at the request of long-term prisoners. A workshop was held for youth coming into conflict with the law. The success of this workshop quickly generated requests for more, and the programme soon spread to many other prisons.
It soon became obvious that violence and the need for this training exist as much outside prison as within, and that people from all walks of life and circumstances were exposed to violence in some way, whether physical or psychological.
This programme has now spread to over 50 countries around the world, including New Zealand, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia and South Africa.
The Alternatives to Violence Project is an international voluntary movement which organises workshops empowering people to lead non-violent lives, based on respecting and caring for ourselves and others.
Mkhonto is currently the Chairperson of the KZN-APV-Network and based on her passion and great leadership qualities, she was nominated to stand for AVPI Vice-President. She has been involved with AVP since 2007 through student leadership courses run by Ms Mary Odendaal every mid-year vacation period.
Mkhonto said she was very grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference for the first time and had the privilege to interact and make friends with some of the 154 delegates from 43 countries at the workshop.