Recognizing naturally emerging leaders of gangs and transforming their leadership abilities as change agents and role models then we make behavior change happen in their spheres of influence.
What I see and what I hear,
from my peers, I hold them dear
feel strong when they are near
to face the risk with no more fear
................Excerpted from a poem entitled "the risk gangs hold dear" by JohnPierre
Gangs are self-formed groups of peers that are formed out of the desire of members to gain protection and recognition. However, most gangs are linked around violence, law–breaking activities and delinquency. ‘Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay’ is working to change this common and self-fulfilling view. In southern Philippines, KGPP facilitators strive to reveal and recognize the good and enduring characteristics of gangs and use these characteristics to promote positive change and address violence and risks.
According to JohnPierre, “the reason why young people engage in risk-behaviors and elevate their risk of HIV infection is not result of their lack of knowledge to HIV, but rather because of the behavioral characteristics of the peer group and the functioning of their sexual networks where they belong. Improving their knowledge should be coupled with addressing their environment then behavior change comes as follow. We can only change gang culture if we first change the way we think, feel and work for gangs.
For instance, gang members engage in sex for varying reasons and most engage due to the reward they feel they get. Their reward maybe the income they generate out of the sex, the feeling of being “loved” or “comforted”, the passage to “manhood” and feel more like a ‘man’ and among others. They also involve in doing crime to feel the increasing “respect” of the peers. Every gang members have their own peer-sanctioned abilities (as requirements for membership) to obtain these rewards which when combined supplements each other and later defines the dominating and enduring subculture of the group. Eventually, a natural leader is chosen and emerge as one who have the abilities to obtain all the rewards (that can be benefited by the group)..
Acknowledging the potentials of emerging natural leaders as reinforcers of a good behavior influences them to become role models for their peers. We should harness this capacity. For example, JhanJhan, a natural leader among street youth in Molo Iloilo City is now taking the responsibility of influencing his peers to reduce their risk by using condoms. If the leader uses condoms, the rest of the group will use condoms as well. He did not succeed once when he was a peer educator but sees improvement now as role model. Now his peers are looking for condoms where he do mentoring on how to use them correctly and consistently. So we create role models amongst peer educators, not just peer educators.
JhanJhan now both promote protection for the members of his peer-group and strive to live with new-found tolerance with rivals of other peer groups that continually re-earn the allegiance of their peers and retain their authority not as perpetuators of violence and risk-behaviors but as change agents. He represented his peer group, as well as KGPP and Iloilo City during the Philippine National Children's Conference held in Antipolo City Philippines on August 27-30, 2009 sponosred by the Council for the Welfare of Children to promote his advocacy on HIV and AIDS prevention among youth.
KGPP believe in change. Change is inherent in each and everyone. We need to be patient enough and never give up. Our perseverance is the hope of every community to reveal the change they want to be”