Youth Work Week 2022 Not the dropping ball – an approach to gender-based violence

The “Yoda Principles”, Fear leads to anger, Anger leads to hate, Hate leads to suffering, that has never been more prevalent than today.  

For so many people living on the margins of financial security, fear is constant. St Paul’s Youth Forum (SPYF), based in the North East of Glasgow, aims to support young people to learn and engage with one another and to alleviate the effects of poverty and disadvantage. Gang violence has been highly prevalent in the local area for many years, the project base was regularly being used as a first aid sanctuary for violent crime and incidents of abuse throughout the 2000s-2010s.  


In 2016, we undertook a longitudinal study into youth crime reduction due to youth work. In the final analysis from Police Scotland’s crime figures, SPYF worked with local police officers to find out that violent crimes had reduced from 116 crimes in 2006 to two crimes in 2016. The lack of violent crime in the local community did appear reduced, however during ongoing discussions with local people, youth work staff realised that one form of violence had gone unchallenged in the local area. And it was unseen due to the rise in technology and social media. It became apparent that Gender Based Violence (GBV) is highly prevalent in the lives of the young people SPYF encounter.   

In Scotland there were 59,982 reported cases of Domestic Violence in 2014-15. 79% of these were female victims and male perpetrators. Women's Aid also shared that 1 in 5 children in the UK will have experienced domestic abuse by the time they are 18 years old. Prevalence is notably higher in areas of multiple deprivation. 


Tackling this issue required two different areas of approach. Firstly, to educate and support the youth workers, secondly to find ways to help young people. When training staff, we created several one-minute videos to explain some of the different topics, such as healthy relationships, consent and porn masculinity. We have provided suggestions of what tools, activities and resources have been useful to use through each part of the conversations with young people.  We also held workshops led by experts like Linda Thompson of the Women’s Support Project and Jackson Katz founder of MVP strategies.  

In order to reach young people effectively we supported a group of peer educators to bring about change. This group have created a game which will enable dialogue in communities across the country; being supported in partnership with other youth centres and schools, entitled ‘Don’t drop the ball – on Relationships!’  

The peer-educators have also developed a ‘training youth workers programme’ which includes online modules and videos of seminars that have enabled change for and with children and young people on these specific issues – which are identified with the young people and local community. 

This game has been developed to be used as a tool to ‘ice break’ and establish a benchmark of knowledge and awareness with their peers before they start any activities around GBV prevention.   

So how does it work?  

The group participants in the game will be prompted to (gently) throw/pass the ball to whoever they want in a circle, once caught the catcher will read out whatever ‘question’ their right thumb lands on, so on and so forth for whatever time allows. If the question at their right thumb has been asked, then use the left. The questions are made up of both domestic and international facts and statistics on Gender Based Violence which the group of peer educators have researched alongside youth workers and professionals in the field of GBV prevention work. This was enthusiastically received by health board staff, teachers and youth workers and is available to purchase, with or without training. 

Young people have to be at the heart of any change. We’re lucky to be able to journey with some amazing young people as we learn together. Their ability to make the transformations in our community and beyond is exciting. The hope to challenge fear comes from them.  

Case Study  

We first met Chloe and Leah as part of our Gender Based Violence Prevention Project in November 2019. Shy, giggly 14 year olds who were like most young women joining a group for the first time. Their leadership qualities were first recognised when the Scottish Peer Education Network delivered a session on what peer education is. They really engaged with everything as part of the session, all was exciting for the future but then Covid struck. 

Members of the group naturally fell away during Covid, but Chloe and Leah’s commitment and passion enabled them to stay engaged. 

They were instrumental in creating our resource, ‘Don’t drop the ball – on Relationships!’ The ball creation came from recognising that it was important to have discussions with peers. This realisation for them came when we were about to hop on a coach as part of the summer activities, where they heard some of the younger boys discussing online gaming. Chloe and Leah not only understood GBV but had the confidence to be active bystanders. They engaged the boys in an informal education discussion about how the game the boys were playing contributes towards violence against women and girls.  

The ball now enables people to begin the difficult conversations and was created by the young people throwing a football with post it notes around, asking questions on difficult topics and also having a laugh. 

Chloe and Leah attend a visit to Reykjavik as part of an Erasmus+ funded programme. It showcased to our young people that the issues that we are facing in the North East of Glasgow also exist in other places. By widening their perspective, they found solidarity with other peer educators in Iceland and have taken this learning and support back to our community.  

We have seen the transformation in these young people, from those giggly girls into community leaders, making a vital change in our area and beyond. It was recently recognised by their school, who recognised their achievements with special awards for pupils who have gone the extra mile in school and the wider community. They continue to be part of the positive change in our area, teaching others about this challenging subject. 



T @StPaulsYF  



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