Holistic security - What is Security?

From Gender and Tech Resources

(Redirected from What is Security?)
Title of the tutorial 1.1 Draw Your Day & What is Security?
Kind of learning session Holistic
Tutorial category Discussion
Duration (hours) 1.5
Learning objectives Objective: Grounding the notion of security in the day-to-day life and experience of the participants. Participants defining what security means for them. Introducing the idea of holistic security.
Prerequisites A comfortable space for participants.

1/2 sheet of flipchart and markers for each participant Flipchart and markers for facilitator

Methodology [[Methodology::By: D. Ó Clunaigh (TTC), A. Ravi (FLD)

Activity: Draw Your Day

Participants are given a half sheet of flipchart paper each.

Step 1 Instructions: Draw a typical, active working day for you in your activism, from when you get up in the morning until you go to sleep at night. Consider questions like:

  • When you wake up, and the rituals you have to start the day (where are you, who are you with...)
  • When you leave your home and where you go first. What do you take with you (e.g. mobile phones, handbags,...) - be sure to include that.
  • Where do you go - what does the journey look like? Who else is there?
  • Think about where you are when you're working. Who are you working with? What devices are you using, if any?
  • Do you eat or relax during the day?
  • How do you get home? Or what do you do before you go home?
  • What do you do in the evenings? When do you sleep?

Give participants approx. 15 minutes to make an initial drawing. Remind them that there is no obligation to share the drawing itself and they do not have to impress anyone. The exercise is simply a way of reflecting on existing habits and relating them to our security.

Step 2: Allow 5-10 minutes for participants to reflect on anything which occurred to them during the process.

Discussion: What is Security?

[Adapted from the Integrated Security Manual – www.integratedsecuritymanual.org ]

Instructions: Taking a break from drawing for a moment, we are going to perform a quick word-association exercise. Word association can be useful, because there is often great honesty in our initial reactions to concepts.

The facilitator will give you a word to respond to, and participants respond as quickly as possible without thinking with the other words which they associate to that.

Give an example: 'Elephant'. Give the real word: 'Security'

Participants will respond with many different words. Write them on a flipchart to the extent possible. Give up to 10 minutes for this. Optional step: some minutes into the exercise, emphasise that participants respond to what security means to them personally. You may note a major shift in the kinds of words which come up.

Notes to share with participants: This exercise tends to be unique with every group: this is because security is fundamentally a personal concept which we must define for ourselves in the context of activism which puts us at risk.

Many of the words we associate with security will have positive connotations, while others may be associated with militarism and conflict. It is important that we reclaim its meaning for ourselves from this realm.

Input: Security as personal and holistic

Many of the words associated to family, friends, finances, freedom, and concepts – these relate to our most fundamental desire for well-being, which is entirely subjective. We define this for ourselves. We give our own meaning to security when our work inherently implies we take decisions which result in others posing a threat to us. Ultimately, our aim in this or any training related to security is to build on our ability to protect our well-being. Any security measures which don't fortify our well-being, are counter-productive.

Many of the words will relate to the security of physical spaces, structures and vehicles. This is somewhat less subjective, and more scientific. This can be a very useful 'science' to learn more about – for example, how to keep our offices more secure from theft or break-ins. However, we should only build these skills to the extent they are useful to us.

Many of the words will relate to digital and information security: digital security can be more objectively or scientifically determined , for instance, by testing information systems (and/or devices). However, again, we should only engage with digital security tactics and tools to the extent that they are useful in our work and supportive of our well-being, which they can be: knowing our information is protected can be a great source of relaxation for us.

Deepening: identifying our threats and strategies

Step 1: Participants return to their drawings. Look at your typical day and identify or add:

  • Where do you see danger or the potential for danger in your day. Consider your well-being and health, along with the physical spaces you're in, and the devices you're using.

Allow 5-10 minutes for this, and 5-10 further for reflection. This may be a conversation in which participants share their vulnerabilities, so be sure not to cut them short.

Remember: you are not here to have the answers to all problems. However, recognise openly that they are now taking an empowering step to organise and improve their security situation.

Step 2: Participants return to their drawings. Look at your typtical day and identify or add:

  • Where do you see strategies, plans, tools, tactics that you already use in order to stay safe and protect yourself?

Give 10 minutes for this and allow a further 10 for reflections.


  • Security is personal, subjective, and we define it for ourselves.
  • Our well-being should be the fundamental reference for security.
  • We are already programmed and have learned many tactics and great resilience to continue in our work in spite of the challenges we face.

With that as our starting point, we can go forward into analysing our work from the perspective of digital, physical and psycho-social security in order to improve our situation.]]

Number of facilitators involved 1
Technical needs Flipchart and markers
Theoretical and on line resources Integrated security manual: http://integratedsecuritymanual.org