TOWARDS INCLUSIVE SAFETY TRAININGS: A DISCUSSION AND TRAINING SHOWCASE WITH THE IREX SAFE TEAM

Continuing with GFMD’s member-only webinar series, on February 6th, IREX hosted a webinar titled “Towards Inclusive Safety Trainings: A discussion and training showcase with IREX’s Securing Access to Free Expression (SAFE) team”.

The webinar was presented by:

  • Eunice Olawo (Psychosocial Trainer, SAFE East Africa),
  • Evgenia Javakhishvili (Psychosocial Trainer, SAFE Eurasia),
  • Cosette Maalouf (Psychosocial Trainer SAFE MENA),
  • Erika Rydergaard (Senior Program Officer – IREX Information and Media Practice).

The webinar focused on IREX’s approach to journalism safety training from the perspective of inclusion and equality, specifically referencing their SAFE project and a recently developed annex to their Basic Safety Training Curriculum.

About SAFE

The SAFE project has been implemented by IREX for almost seven years. Its aim is to allow media practitioners and social communicators to work as safely as possible. SAFE currently operates in five regions: Eurasia, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South Asia, Central America, and East Africa. The programme offers holistic safety trainings for journalists and social communicators, focusing on physical, digital, and psychosocial safety during workshops that last between 3 and 5 days.

The SAFE programme notes the importance of acknowledging and addressing the specific needs of individuals who are disadvantaged as a result of their identity. This involves taking a human rights-based approach and ensuring that trainings are not only valuable, but accessible to all, while also challenging potentially harmful norms and stereotypes. The team has gathered their experiences from the past five years of work into an annex to their Basic Curriculum, which can be found here. This Inclusion Annex will be launched in the coming weeks.

The Annex – Approach and Methodology

In order to follow the aforementioned human rights-based approach, SAFE uses a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) lens in every step prior, during, and after their trainings, from needs assessment, to practical training sessions, and monitoring and evaluation efforts.

SAFE harnesses personal experience and knowledge from the project target groups, their regional training teams, and IREX’s institutional knowledge in order to best address identity-based risks which vary significantly from person to person.

Aims of the Inclusion Annex

The Annex provides guidance at every stage of training, spanning from the design of a training programme, to its implementation, all the way to the evaluation and monitoring stages following delivery. The Inclusion Annex was developed in order to facilitate the inclusion of GESI values not just in SAFE’s activities, but also in other training programmes, providing easily replicable practices regardless of the different contexts (regional, cultural, linguistic, etc.) in which trainings can take place. Further, the information provided in the annex is adjustable to the specific context which programme participants come from and operate in. The Inclusion Annex can be used alongside the SAFE Basic Training Curriculum, but is also intended as standalone guidance.

Introduction to the Inclusion Annex

The Annex covers the following topics:

  • “Do No More Harm Principle” and how it differs from “Do No Harm” policies: As an example of the difference between these two policies: globally, it is estimated that 15% of the population live with a disability. However, only a small portion of these disabilities are outwardly visible. This is also applicable to gender identity; only a section of LGBTQ individuals are open about their identity. Trainers must consider the various identities of their participants, including those which may not be outwardly visible. In doing so, trainers should offer courses which will be non-discriminatory or exclusive, i.e. causing more harm than the participants had previously experienced.
  • Needs Assessment and Planning: Assessing the needs of different participants, including considering the mix of identities in a particular group and recognising cultural differences and how they may apply to specific individuals. As an example, a group may contain participants who have experienced significant trauma, meaning trainers should take particular care to remove trigger content from their programmes.
  • Training Environment and Ground Rules: Ground rules must underscore inclusion and equality, preventing any harassment or exclusion and creating a respectful space for the training to take place.
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning: GESI sensitive monitoring, along with a “Do No More Harm” approach are all included in the Annex.

The Annex also includes sample lesson plans which cover everything from ice-breakers, GESI add-ons to existing SAFE lesson plans, as well as specific GESI-sensitive lesson topics.

Security Risk Assessment (SRA) with Gender and Inclusion Approach – Presenting a lesson from the GESI Annex

Adding the gender and inclusion lens allows for a clearer and more detailed understanding of the SRA landscape. The risks faced by marginalised groups may be significantly different to those faced by non-marginalised communities. It is vital for trainers to acknowledge and understand these differences when conducting SRA. Further, the intersectionality of various identities and the myriad risks brought about by this must be understood by trainers.

When considering identity, it is important to view it as an umbrella for multiple sub-identities, rather than one individual identity. The intersection of these identities, for example work-based, gender, and other personal identities, gives rise to new and varied risks faced by the person in question. Each intersection between identities represents a novel risk faced by the individual. Regardless of the increased risks caused by intersecting identities, it is worth noting that this does not point to any negativity related to having multiple identities, rather it highlights the potentially heightened discrimination brought about through the intersection of identity.

On risks, it should be noted that:

  • Risks are not isolated; there is always an intersection and interaction between different types of risks.
  • The more an individual is aware of the risks associated with their identities, the better able they are to mitigate them.
  • Intersectionality can intensify inclusion or exclusion.
  • Having a more holistic lens will ensure that varied risks, including physical, social, psychological, economic, political, and environmental risks, can be identified and effectively mitigated.

There are several actors to be considered when assessing risk. In general, actors can be divided into at least three categories:

  • External: Actors outside of a specific organisation or group. E.g. the Government, police, competitors.
  • Internal: Actors inside an organisation or group. E.g. colleagues, employers.
  • Closer: Those closest to the individual being assessed. E.g. Family and friends.

These categories of actors, as well as the variation of risk based on identity, must be taken into account when conducting an SRA. When it comes to equality and social inclusion in safety trainings, a more inclusive and holistic approach taken by the trainers will facilitate more pertinent and effective training programmes.

More information about the IREX SAFE programme can be found here. If any GFMD members are interested in participating in more conversations around issues related to gender and media, you are invited to join the GFMD Women in Media Working Group. Contact  jhiggins@gfmd.info for more information.