CEHAT conducted a five-day course on feminist counselling from 22nd June to 26th June 2015 at Sarvodaya Department, Saint Pius College, Goregaon. There were 12 participants from non-governmental organizations of Maharashtra and Goa. Maharashtra participants were from different places like Chandrapur, Bhandara, Sangli, Yavatmal, Beed, Jalgaon, and Mumbai. The participants were counselors and social workers with minimum 2 years experience on the issue of violence against women. The objective of the course was to provide participants with a different lens with which to approach their work - a feminist lens which empowers women to question oppression and respond to it.
The methodology was experiential and interactive, informing participants of theoretical concepts with scope for hands-on learning through discussions of case studies and role plays. This provided opportunity for discussion and debate. The participants were enthusiastic and shared various examples of cases they had intervened in and the challenges they encountered.
Hasina Khan, an activist in the Women’s Movement in India, took the participants through the history and ongoing journey of the women’s movement in the country over the past decades. This session helped participants establish a context for feminist counselling. The session on legal counselling in relation to VAW was facilitated by Adv. Ujwala Kadrekar, associated with Lawyers collective with several years of experience in the area of women’s rights. The session offered participants greater understanding of the law, its interpretation and application to their work.
The various forms of violence against women and their consequences, the role of healthcare providers in responding to violence against women, the values, principles, ethics and techniques of feminist counselling and the feminist critique of the mainstream model of psychiatry were discussed in detail, with a demonstration of the method through a role play. The participants applied these techniques through group work on case studies and took back a lot of learning which they were keen to apply to their work.
Participants gave feedback that the exercise of role plays of case study and application of counseling skills and techniques encouraged them to critically analyze their own counseling styles. These exercises help them more to understand, analyze and apply the concepts to their work, encouraging them to think about what they would do differently when they go back.
Participants realized the importance of trusting the woman when she approaches them as against questioning her story. They had learnt a different perspective with which to view problems and challenges, keeping in mind the position of women on the axis of power and be able to reach out to women in a more sensitive and empowering manner.