Alternatives to Violence is an international peace movement and was first established in Zimbabwe in 2015, with support from Quakers in Namibia and South Africa. Since its small beginnings, the team has grown in experience and expertise, now with strong links with the Brethren in Christ Church, which like Quakers, is also a peace church. Several of the Bulawayo team have been trained in peace and conflict studies at the Durban Institute of Technology’s International Centre for Nonviolence (ICON). Three of the leading members of AVPZ have completed doctorates in Peace Studies, one of them specifically focused on the impact of a Peace Club on the school ethos.
Alternatives to Violence Zimbabwe took a huge step forward recently when a new team was set up in Harare, the capital. It has long been an ambition to spread AVP activities across the whole country. One key member of the Bulawayo-based AVPZ committee, Dr Ntombizakhe Moyo-Nyoni, met Natasha Venables at an AVP International conference in Nepal. These two joined forces with Susan Wyatt, also an Harare resident. Both Natasha and Susan were already trained AVP facilitators but were not, as yet, able to run courses of their own because they had not gained sufficient experience in the actual facilitation of workshops. So, two Level 1 workshops were planned with financial assistance from AVP Australia and additional support from AVPZ and the local Harambe Trust. The three were joined by Dr Mandlenkosi Moyo from Bulawayo and the two courses were delivered in April 2022.
The participants in the two courses were drawn largely from the NGO world, plus officials in the Prison Service. Many participants shared personal experiences of violence in their own lives, several for the first time.
One participant expressed their gratitude in this way:
“The two-day workshop you organized for Harare was a real life-changing experience. Before that workshop, the only thing I understood was responding to violence using violence but all the sessions we went through during the workshop helped me to understand that violence is a choice. I thank all you guys for helping me understand the value of peace both at individual and community level, I am now a changed person and I am looking forward to initiate such projects to the people of my local community.”
In all, 38 participants graduated from these Level 1 training courses.
Advanced level Training
On 17th and 18th August, two members of the Bulawayo training team ran an Advanced level workshop. Out of the 38 who had done the L1 course, 19 came back for the next level training. Attendees were drawn from various organizations, including NGOs and government organizations such as Zimbabwe Correctional Services (prisons).
Training the Trainers
In December, thirteen residents of Harare returned for the Level 3 training, which is otherwise called ‘Training the Trainers’. Graduates of this course are entitled to become apprentice trainers who must help to facilitate three courses, before they can qualify as a fully fledged trainers.
Now, the Harare chapter of AVPZ is fully established and we look forward to hearing how the work of peace-building in the community and in schools will develop. Amongst other things, the Harare team will start to train teachers in restorative approaches to school discipline, including peer mediation. As it happens, a research project, undertaken in 2016 in three Harare primary schools, found that with training and support, teachers introduced peer mediation and peace-making circles into their schools over a period of six months. The results were tangible and almost all of the teachers said that they would continue using these methods. AVPZ’s Peace Clubs project promotes the same methods, at the same time as encouraging schools to run after-school clubs for volunteer students.