Austrian partner VMG presents an account of the first education programme back in Summer 2020.
On 15th of June 2020, VMG started the first FOMEN Education Program with male refugees and migrants in Austria. In cooperation with the NGO ZEBRA we reached out to a highly motivated and intrigued group of men who have been spending most of their asylum procedure in and around the Styrian city of Mürzzuschlag. Due to the town’s remoteness and the legal impossibility for them and their family working a job or pursuing an education, in addition to Covid-19 slowing down most aspects of social and public life, these men were highly motivated to participate as the first group at the FOMEN Education Program.
In the course of six weeks the group of nine men met with the workshop facilitators (Moritz Theuretzbacher, VMG) every week, each time working on and discussing a different matter together with an expert in particular field. For the purpose of equal dialogues and exchange the program included the free offer of interpretation and translation, for this matter we worked with interpreters (Noha Shabayk & Menna Shabayk) in Arabic and German languages.
Every meeting started with an introduction round, getting familiar with the day’s agenda and the particular expert invited to group presenting their knowledge and discussing it with them. At the very first meeting on 15th June the group looked into the significance of talking about violence and its prevention. Since FOMEN’s goals are focused on violence prevention, the participants reflected together how violence can manifest in every person’s life and how we can protect us and our families, friends and neighbours from being exposed to it. Nadine Lampel, an expert working for the Violence Protection Centre in Styria, introduced the historical and social origins of the Austrian Violence Protection Law.
At the second meeting the participants enjoyed the opportunity to clarify questions and issues regarding their legal status as asylum seekers in Austria. Daniela Huber, an expert working for the intercultural counselling and therapy centre ZEBRA in Graz, shared her knowledge and experience as legal counsellor with the group.
During the third- and fourth-week together with Annemarie Siegl, an expert working both for VMG and the Violence Protection Centre in Styria, the group developed self-caring strategies to cope with emotions of helplessness and anger. This module intended to highlight self-reflection for the use of language and communication, in order to respect personal boundaries and to prevent misunderstandings leading to conflicts. Its goal is also to maintain our own health, but also the healthy aspects of relationships, at which we took a closer look in the fifth session. Christoffer Vojta, an expert working for “lil*-Zentrum für Sexuelle Bildung, Kommunikations und Gesundheitsförderung” shared and discussed his knowledge with the group on social and intimate relationships.
For our last meeting on 20th July we looked back on each session, reflected once again on our experiences and evaluated the FOMEN Education Program. Each participant received a certificate, which symbolizes just a small thankful gesture for their valuable contributions and respectful cooperation. Showing their gratitude and hospitality the men prepared together with their families a memorable lunch of their favourite Iraqi and Syrian dishes. The first Education Program couldn’t have ended in a more delicious way.