CEHAT conducted a five-day course on feminist counselling from 4th to 8th May at YMCA International House. There were 21 participants from non-governmental organizations of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The participants were lawyers and social workers with experience on the issue of violence and atrocity. 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.
Aruna Burte, a veteran in the Women’s Movement in India, took the participants through the ongoing journey of the women’s movement in the country over the past decades. This session helped participants a context for feminist counselling. The session on legal counselling in relation to VAW was facilitated by Adv. Manisha Tulpule, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee and an advocate 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 presenting their critique on the given reading materials encouraged them to critically analyze and apply the concepts to their work, encouraging them to think about what they would do differently when they go back.
The male participants shared that they had begun the process of challenging their own views having been equipped with the feminist lens. While the participants have been active on the issue of violence, they shared that 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.