Law Shifters in Ukraine: how was it?
The Law Shifters workshop came to Ukraine. The participants loved it!
On May 19 and 20, the Youth House organized
Law Shifters – a project of Danish artist Stine Marie Jacobsen aimed at training argumentation, active listening, and bringing forward emotions as an important part of politics. After successful events in Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Greenland, Sweden, Finland, and Lebanon, the Law Shifters workshop finally came to Ukraine and was piloted online.
The Ukrainian court system has been a burning theme for the society for a long time. Thus, we wanted to let the participants try the system “inside out” and do the justice themselves. It is important to remember that in many situations, the court decision is a matter of argumentation and preparedness of the prosecutors and defenders, and the decisions for similar cases can be totally different when you look at it through the prism of time.
We worked with two awesome groups of young people – students of the
Trudolyub Gymnasium in Poltava region and members of the Poltava Oblast Youth Center. The court case we selected for them was related to discrimination in advertising, an issue that is very common in Ukraine and, unfortunately, very often perceived as a norm. During each day, youth had a chance to play the roles of judges, defenders, prosecutors, and jury members to analyze a particular case and decide if the ad contained discrimination against women.
Of course, we cannot just replace solid law studies with a roleplay. But with mentorship and support from our facilitator
Kateryna Militsyna – PhD in Law and lawyer at Popko Brothers and Partners – who has an extensive experience of both organizing and participating in court competitions, the participants had a chance to experience all the stages of the court case and learn the basics of court law. Right after the workshop, Kateryna shared her feelings: “Daily work in a particular area lets you deepen the knowledge, but at the same time it can limit your imagination. Because when the knowledge fulfills your inner requests, the need to question obvious things simply disappears. Interaction with school students within Law Shifters became a breath of fresh air to me. Thanks to their direct, honest, open, and informal views, they sometimes came up with argumentation that never came to my mind before. Every time it was a pleasant surprise and inspiration to me! I think we should continue such experiments. I feel that the intersection of law and arts can lead to incredibly interesting results!”
Organized in many countries over the past years, Law Shifters proved to be an engaging instrument to influence people and make them think outside the box. But how different was experience in Ukraine and what are the perspectives of such activities in our context?
Stine Marie Jacobsen, author of the project, tried to answer: “I think the young people we worked with are similar to other young people that I’ve worked with in other countries. Any difference is often more a question of whether there is conservatism or a specific sensitivity in a group. I did get an impression that there is maybe a need for feminism and equality teaching in Ukrainian schools. However, I think the Ukrainian young people were eager to learn, share their ideas and opinions. Artistic political education can be used to create disruption to normal education and normal reasoning. The interventions that I make with Law Shifters in the public or educational space, create a physical and ideological space that empowers, transforms and subverts the opinions and knowledges of participants. It’s always a surprise to experience the unforeseen statements in this roleplay both for us (educators) and the participants. After the workshop, I’m sure they will keep reflecting on the arguments they heard and it will train them as citizens to understand that conflict and disagreement is part of democracy”.
When reaching out to teachers and youth workers at the planning stage of the workshop, we at the Youth House knew we might face some difficulties and fears, as the method we offered is rather unconventional. Since we selected a school in a village for this project, both sides were reasonably concerned – are the kids ready for such an activity or will they have interest in spending three hours in a Zoom meeting? Short answer: yes and yes! No matter if you work with urban students in Denmark or schoolkids from a village in Poltava region, they are all interested in how the systems work. It is just a task of a facilitator to unleash their potential. After the workshop,
Maria Taran, teacher of the senior class at the Trudolyub school, shared: “As a teacher, I liked the format and topic, everything was clear, and kids fully immersed in the process. I was totally impressed by the work of facilitators – they were so supportive and helpful. It is very valuable. Of course, it was a new thing for my students, but they easily adjusted and eventually liked the selected court case”.
All in all, we are happy that Law Shifters became one of the first Youth House’s activities and set a high standard (and expectations) for our future programs. Within this year, we plan on organizing several more workshops for other age groups and with other topics. Ukraine has lots of court cases available for public that we can use for a good cause. While the judicial reform is in the making, why don’t we start talking about justice on a regular basis using creative formats?
On a positive note, please enjoy some of the impressions that our participants shared 😊
Sofia Marynokha: “I’m immensely thankful for all who joined us and all who organized it. This was a priceless experience. It combined all: ability to persuade, public speaking skills, communication with like-minded peers and many more. I’ll be happy to join you again. Thank you!💋” Diana Proskyrnya: “When I signed up, I thought that court cases are boring. But my opinion changed, as it’s very interesting to listen to people who have different points of view on the same issue. I also enjoyed discussing gender equality in the society. I liked it that each opinion was heard and taken into account. The facilitators are awesome and creative. Thanks a lot for letting me try myself in a completely new area”. Daryna Ivanova: “First of all, this workshop gave me another opportunity to train the ability to express my opinion and think logically. I met such awesome people! Honestly, I expected it to be boring, but I was so wrong, and the time passed so fast and it was useful. I’m very thankful to the organizers and facilitators for the fun time. I’ll be happy to meet again, and hopefully in person!” Oleksandr Kostyukevych: “Listening and solving a conflict drags you so much into this whole process. I had incredible emotions. It was pretty hard to be a judge, but thanks to the organizers, we made it. Thanks again for the unforgettable workshop. You are awesome!”