Just Between You and Me: A Peer Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) Programme for Women in Family Violence Situations
- 5. Conclusions
The scope of this research does not allow for ongoing follow-up, though a full assessment of peer delivery as a valid model of PLEI delivery would benefit from a longitudinal study, which could provide more detailed information. Such a study might examine the number of women influenced and assisted; the continued participation of the peers in the monthly support group and ongoing training; and the overall impact of the programme on the communities from which the peers were drawn.
There is however, substantial evidence that the peer PLEI model is a valuable tool:
- The peers themselves were able to identify substantial knowledge growth regarding the socio-legal issues involved in woman abuse
- Their self-assessment indicated that their perceptions and attitudes towards abused women had changed to a more accurate, empathetic view
- The peers also indicated behaviour changes: that they themselves were more empowered to advocate on behalf of abused women, and that their advocacy would be rooted in an empowerment model
- The peers were already sharing their new information and perceptions with their community networks
- The requests for more training, both from the peers themselves and from community members, indicate the value that others see in having this type of delivery model
The "Just Between You and Me" project supports the use of an evaluation framework in delivering PLEI. The framework used in this project guided the development of materials and the delivery, and contributed to making the training culturally appropriate, and empowering. By using the framework to question themselves throughout, the research team ensured that the project adhered to clear goals and processes, resulting in quality training.
The recruitment process was a challenging part of the project, and a number of recommendations have resulted from the process:
- A media conference is an excellent method of creating community awareness and alerting potential peers of the opportunity to participate
- Using community networks of social agencies, legal intermediaries and personal contact is essential when recruiting from minority communities, and ensuring diversity of participation
- An "information session" for all interested community members would be useful in assisting the application of some who might find a formal application intimidating
- Interviewing prospective peers is a crucial part of recruitment to ensure that peers are ready for training
The use of materials already developed by other organizations such as METRAC, the Ontario Women's Justice Network, and CLEO ensured that materials were up-to-date and accurate, and also connected women to these PLEI providers. For the peer delivery model, it is essential that developers of PLEI materials such as these be readily available, as peers themselves do not have the skills or expertise to develop their own materials. By providing peers with the knowledge of where to access accurate legal information and advice, "Just Between You and Me" was able to reassure peers that they do not need to know every detail – rather they develop the confidence that they can obtain such information and advice when needed.
This is a key learning from "Just Between You and Me" – that the validity of the peer delivery model relies on the production of useful, accurate PELI materials in plain language and the confidence of the peers to understand and use the materials. At the final self-assessment, many of the peers spoke of the resource handbook as a valuable tool that they will use in their dispensing of information.
The training of the peers was based on an empowerment model, following the guidelines of the Evaluation Framework. The interactive, experiential delivery built confidence amongst the peers and encouraged them to problem-solve and role-play. The small group discussions encouraged a cross-cultural atmosphere where peers felt respected and valued, key components of empowerment.
The Advisory Group, together with the team approach to the research, played a valuable role – several heads are better than one! Through the combined expertise of approximately eight women employed in the fields of woman abuse, legal advocacy, and education and research, many pitfalls were avoided and several improvements were made. This approach also raised the level of awareness in the community, and contributed to the ease of recruitment of peers.
There have been many requests to the research team of "Just Between You and Me" to provide additional training, both to peers as well as to service providers. It is highly likely that the curriculum developed for this project will be used again to provide such training, due to this project's success. Now that the model has been developed, peer training can be delivered in a very cost-effective manner, following the template developed.
Finally, the peers new-found confidence in sharing their knowledge supports research which indicates that sometimes just knowing that help is available, is sufficient for an abused woman to decide to leave the abuse (Hill, 2003). "Just Between You and Me" has clearly contributed in distributing that information more broadly.
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