Video: Meet the 170-year-old sobriety movement

The current wave of attention might make it seem like tackling alcohol harm is a new thing, but far from it. Movendi International has been working in the area for nigh-on 170 years, with a name change from IOGT last month the latest evolution. Its president Katarina Sperkova talks with me here about the organisation’s legacy, its values, policies and hopes for the future.

Key points:

  • “We can see a boom in coming out as a person who has a problem with alcohol and being confident in talking about it.”  [1m47s]
  • Reasons for the name-change: “There are very few members in the organisation that understand what a ‘good templar’ is. They have never been part of any order.” [4m15s]
  • “IOGT [the name adopted in 2006] was difficult to explain. … People were asking what it is? We didn’t have any good answer. We really needed to move away from that name.” [4m57s]
  • On the use of ritual and regalia. “I have never experienced it as a member and I have been active in the organisation since 1999.” [6m29s]
  • The number of member organisations with such practices “I would count them on one hand” [6m51s]. The practices are important for them as part of a recovery process.
  • On being an umbrella organisation: “We are not taking active steps in finding individual members.” [10m13s] It might assist in creating an organisation when one does not exist.
  • The situation in the global south, “It reminds us very much of the situation in 1851 in the US [when Movendi began].” [13m43s]
  • 14 out of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals are “negatively impacted by alcohol harm”. [16m57s]
  • Areas where it has a negative impact are: Poverty, gender-based violence and sexist advertising undermining gender equality, access to water.
  • What does “alcohol prevention” mean in the organisation’s catchline? “What we are talking about is to reduce harm caused by alcohol, or prevent harm caused by alcohol. … It is definitely not a prohibitionist term.” [20m16s] 
  • The phrase also includes recovery because people who recover “create alcohol-free space”, which influenced people around them. [21m54]
  • “We do not interfere in people’s personal choices. What is important for us is what a society offers to people.” [22m50]
  • Have we got another 170 years of this same story? “I have a very strong belief this is about to change. … I think it has already changed.” [25m17s]