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Tackling Violence Against Women in a New Way

One out of every three women will be abused physically, sexually, emotionally, or in some other way during her lifetime. Violence against women and girls has been called the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world. Violence against women and girls knows no national or cultural boundaries; it cuts across age, race, and economic status. It devastates the lives of millions of women and girls around the globe. It harms families and communities.

Violence and video games

Video games have become an increasingly favorite form of entertainment, yet many video games are known for their violent content. Population Media Center and the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College have teamed up to apply the power of gaming to make a positive impact on gender issues by using character role models and simulated life decisions to shift attitudes and behaviors on gender issues.

To counteract violence against women, gender inequality, and bullying, PMC and our partners have developed a global toolkit that encourages young boys to break away from negative attitudes and behaviors that fuel these issues. The BREAKAWAY Game & Toolkit consists of: BREAKAWAY, an episodic electronic football (soccer) game to attract young players and a Facilitator’s Guide to be used with youth to delve deeper into the issues presented in the game storyline, and a Facilitator’s Edition of the game.

BREAKAWAY draws in players through a fun, interactive football game that focuses on character relationships and football performance through three modes of play: narrative events, tactical football matches, and skill-building training sessions. Throughout the gaming experience, BREAKAWAY players encounter critical decisions and consequences regarding gender stereotypes. BREAKAWAY balances immersive narrative game-play with messages that denounce violence against women and girls, while players develop a sense of team membership. Reflective narrative is reinforced throughout skill-based football play. This strategy is based on the Sabido methodology that utilizes narrative and role modeling to encourage behavior change.

The Facilitators Guide, a companion to the game, extends further into the issues at hand, providing dynamic new ways to reflect on actions and decisions made while playing the game. By using the BREAKAWAY Game & Toolkit, boys (and girls) learn to become champions on and off the field as the value of positive choices and the consequences of negative ones are reinforced.

A game-changer: digging deeper

The BREAKAWAY Toolkit is designed specifically for educators, coaches, and others who work with youth aged 8-15 in both school and non-school settings around the world. The first element of the Toolkit, the electronic game, is designed for players to have an enjoyable gaming experience and introduces them to scenarios where they must make choices dealing with gender inequality, violence against women and girls, and bullying presented in the game. The second element of the Toolkit, the Facilitator’s Guide, is intended for educators to navigate the game with the youth in a group environment allowing participants to reflect on their experiences of the game.

The Guide’s thirteen ‘Playbooks’ follow the BREAKAWAY story episode-by-episode, using creative activities designed to support participants with diverse learning styles. The BREAKAWAY Guide includes:

• Group activities: from creative skits and games to football-related activities that get kids up and moving.

• Discussion questions (for multiple maturity levels).

• Activity Sheets: from word searches and matching exercises, to creating poems, rap lyrics, and comic strips.

• Story summaries with images from the game and ‘callouts’ that identify both positive and negative moments in the game related to the issues.

Example of a BREAKAWAY 'Callout'

BREAKAWAY spokesperson: Champion on and off the field

BREAKAWAY is endorsed by world-famous football star, Samuel Eto’o, team captain of Cameroon’s national team, The Indomitable Lions and an Anzhi Makhachkala striker. Mr. Eto’o is committed to making the world a better place and as BREAKAWAY spokesperson he is featured as an in-game character, in game trailers, and in interviews promoting the project.

For Youth, By Youth!

The BREAKAWAY electronic game was created by a team of over 70 students at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center (EMC), many of whom aren’t much older than the BREAKAWAY target audience. Students utilized entertainment-education strategies guided by PMC to develop the narrative. Avid gamers themselves, they designed BREAKAWAY to link the winning benefits of respect on the playing field to respectful behavior toward girls and women in the players’ relationships and social interactions.

Here is just a glimpse of the work that the EMC student team put in to creating BREAKAWAY:

Ready, Set, Score!

The first three episodes of the BREAKAWAY electronic game launched on June 22, 2010, building on 2010 FIFA World Cup fever, after nearly two years in development with on-the-ground research and pretesting in South Africa, Eastern Caribbean, and the United States. The other component of the BREAKAWAY Toolkit, the Facilitator’s Guide, will be launched in the summer of 2012.

The Game & Toolkit are available for FREE to play or download at www.breakawaygame.com in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. A DVD version will be available February 2013.

BREAKAWAY Summer Camps

A small international team of undergraduate students organized and conducted BREAKAWAY sessions at three youth summer camps in the city of Hebron in the West Bank in June 2012. The BREAKAWAY game, matched with the Facilitator’s Guide and culturally-appropriate activities developed by local facilitators, positively impacted over 300 children resulting in an environment and attitude of respect despite differences and societal norms.

“By concluding this project, we record Hebron as the first city in the Arab World to receive and implement this educational game that conveys a universal message and is designed to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women,” BREAKAWAY Team Leader Mahmoud Jabari said.

Through this success, the BREAKAWAY team is planning to offer this camp to more locations throughout the world. If your organization is interested in partnering to host a BREAKAWAY summer camp or after-school program, contact Ann DeMarle, demarle@champlain.edu.

When the GAME is your life, will you BREAKAWAY?

This is the question the game teaser asks. Both the title of the project and a term used to describe an exciting scoring opportunity in football (soccer), BREAKAWAY is an apt metaphor for this groundbreaking project. Scoring on a breakaway requires courage and calm. Breaking away from attitudes and behaviors that allow or perpetuate violence against girls and women also requires inner strength and courage.

The BREAKAWAY Project is made possible with support from the UN Population Fund. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign designates BREAKAWAY as a key tool in the effort to end violence against women and girls.

For more information, check out the following links:
Game Facebook fan page
Project documentary video
Project blog