Launch of Celebrating Struggle: Reclaiming hope from despair

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The Siyathanda Initiative held our first Celebrating Struggle: Reclaiming hope from despair – an intensive experiential two-day activist skills training – on 2nd and 3rd of October 2019 at Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education. The training was facilitated by Beth McAlpine and Mark Weinberg with the support of Mandy Antzoylatos.

The purpose of the training was “to experience tools and practices to develop our ability to challenge our despair, face reality, reclaim hope and awaken hope in others to fuel our struggles for freedom and justice.

Participants were introduced to, and gained practice in using a set of powerful practical tools that offer the ability to:

  • Gain insight into – and change – the often unconscious attitudes and self-sabotaging behaviours that stop them from achieving all they seek to create;
  • Heal their accumulated hurts and past traumas to unlock their passion and power to contribute to a more just and democratic world.
  • Develop and maintain their sense of self-worth and agency regardless of their environments, achievements and what others think of them – and identify when their self-esteem is low, and know how to reinvigorate it;
  • Be more resilient in the face of adversity, let go of the self-imposed demands and accusations, and identify what they really want for themselves, their organisations, communities, countries and the world;
  • Connect more deeply with the values and vision that underpin their activism and bring these to bear on ordinary everyday tasks.

We had 28 participants from a range of social justice organisations including #UniteBehind, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, Association of Progressive Communications, DOCKDA Rural Development Agency, Ekasi Project Green, Equal Education, I Define Me, Mandela Park Backyarders, Peace Centre, Popular Education Project, Progressive Community Movement, Radio 786, Reclaim The City, SA Municipal Workers Union, Social Justice Coalition, Women Arising Ocean View, Women For Change, and Youth Without Borders. Over 50% of participants were women, community activists, and youth.

All the participants committed to participating in a series of ‘practice sessions’ to support them to integrate new skills into their activism after the training. 21 of the participants indicated they would like to be part of the team to organise the next training and 13 participants said they would be interested in training to become Siyathanda Facilitators.

Here’s what some activists said about the training:

  • I have learned new skills that are fundamental to moving with activism and how to use the skills as well as the role played by people shaping my life in the struggle, local and internationally
  • Siyathanda breathes new life and energy into activism.
  • I have learned new coping mechanisms, forgiveness and gratitude and generating hope.
  • I have learned that there are various ways of listening and connecting with people and that each person has a story to tell. And we all have lessons to learn from one another. Siyathanda showed me that there are ways of dealing with your thought processes, emotions and reactions in a positive constructive way. And this for me is crucial tools and skills for everyone.
  • Many people are walking around with unforgiveness and are hard on themselves, blaming themselves for things that happened in the past. I’ve learned to watch my thoughts as they can be deceptive to critically think about certain situations, that there is hope
  • I deepened my compassion, to love one another. To work harder and encourage others in good and difficult times.
  • This work is so important & Siyathanda has the politics and experience and awareness, so I feel confident.
  • I have learnt that it is ok to talk about feelings; that I am not alone; that there is hope and that I have the ability to choose. I am rejuvenated and inspired. I loved being in a room with others – connecting and articulating our feelings.
  • I learnt that I am not alone and impact is to take what I had learnt here to my organisation or comrades.
  • My confidence is boosted and I can continue to motivate and educate others in a more positive way.