September 13, 2021.
Tagged: Children and Youth
The International Action Network on Small Arms, in collaboration with the Human Centred Design Program at Algonquin College (Canada) and Gun Free South Africa, has developed the Aim for Change campaign, a youth-focused workshop to express their views on issues such as how gun violence affects them, masculine identities, peer pressure and role models.
Gun violence and harmful stereotypes of masculinity are normalized for many youth. It is not uncommon for kids to stay awake at night to the sound of gunshots outside their homes, or to be tempted to join a gang to feel “like a man”. Youth often feel like there is nowhere for them to express how they’re feeling about these issues. The Aim for Change Campaign is a great way to ensure the youth voices in your community are being heard.
Aim for Change will amplify youth’s voices through a two-hour workshop designed to share their stories through creative expression.
The end goal of this workshop is for kids to make a zine, which is a type of informal magazine or small written publication made up of photographs and handwritten text about a certain topic. Each participant will have their own page in the zine, with enough pages at the end of the workshop to make up a small publication. Youth will tell their stories in an engaging way by sharing and expressing themselves through the various art forms available in the workshop.
The five mediums that will be used in the workshop give youth the choice to pick whichever one resonates most with them for their page in the zine. They can also use one or a combination of two or more mediums.
● Illustration: Participants will draw anything that they feel best represents their story. It can be literal, like a portrait, a landscape, or something more abstract, like drawing or a symbol that represents their story.
● Three Panel Comic: Participants will convey their message by drawing characters conversing across a three panel comic strip.
● Flash Fiction: Participants will write a fiction or nonfiction/autobiographical story between 50 and 100 words.
● Poetry/Song Lyrics: Participants’ poems can take any form, including song lyrics – songs would not be set to music, but the poem’s structure could include verses and a chorus.
● Collage/Decoupage: Participants will gather a collection of images, drawings, etc. to make up a collage/decoupage. The facilitator can bring in old magazines, newspapers, scissors, and glue from home.
● Combination Option: Participants are not limited to using a single medium. In fact, they are encouraged to combine several—as per the examples below, which use illustration, flash fiction, and collage.
Participants will use the mediums above to showcase one theme of their choice. The six themes that will be available for a topic of a Zine are:
● Personal Heroes: (masculine identity) Participants will think of a hero in their personal lives and depict them in their zine page. This connects to masculine identity as it reveals who student’s look up to and see as an inspiration. Is it a gang member, a parent, sports superstar, or musician? Close attention should be paid here: is the participant’s personal hero a positive (i.e. parent, athlete, or artist), or negative (i.e. gang member) role model? Looking up to gang members may indicate a lack of positive role models in a child’s community and heighten their risk of gang involvement. Encourage them to find a positive role model.
● Guns and Me: (how gun violence in my community affects me) Participants will draw on their experience with gun violence and how it affects them. If the participant lives in a community where the sound of gunshots is a daily occurrence, they may live in a constant state of fear. Participants may reflect this in the creation of their zine pages and facilitators might bring the finished zine to the attention of local governments to push for change. This theme positions youth at the centre of the gun violence conversation.
● Breaking Free: (violence in the community, gangs) Similar to the ‘Guns and Me’ theme, participants will discuss how violence (possibly gang-related) in their community affects them. If they have had experience with gangs, either being in one or being tempted to join one, they could touch on that here. It is also an opportunity for youth to express their desires to break free from the violence plaguing their communities, advocating for change and sharing their dreams for a violence-free future. This theme illustrates how violence in a community impacts youth.
● Making Waves: (lack of resources, support and unity in the community) Participants will focus on the overarching theme of experiencing a “lack of” in their communities: lack of resources, support, and unity. For example, children often get involved with gangs because there is a lack of prosocial after-school programming available for them to get involved in. They will choose this theme if they want to change this, thereby “making waves”—both in their lives and in their communities.
● Shout Out!: (feeling powerless to injustice) This theme addresses participants’ feelings of powerlessness and injustice, which they may feel at the community or global levels. It acknowledges the common feeling among children that “I’m just a kid, what can I do?” and that they will not be taken seriously if they try to enact policy change. It will encourage them to “shout out”—to use their voices to affect change by sharing their stories. This theme also relates to youth being left out of policy making decisions that significantly affect them, such as gun laws.
● Anything You Want!: If none of the themes proposed above resonates with your group, we have left space for the facilitator to brainstorm a theme with participants that is entirely of their own creation and that they feel best captures their experience.
This project was funded by the European Union.