STRENGTHENING RESPONSE TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
This project is an initiative of iCALL, TISS in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It aims to deliver support and enhance the capacities of counselors and social workers at One Stop Centers, Special Cells and Family Counselling Centers and also of Protection Officers and those working with women and girl survivors providing psycho-social support during the COVID-19 pandemic in the states of Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. As a result of violence, women and girls suffer many adverse physical, social and psychological consequences. Violence against women and girls, as defined by the United Nations, is any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual and/or mental harm and/or suffering of women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UN, 1993) . Cases of violence against women and girls are known to increase during humanitarian crises and natural disasters. In pandemics such as COVID-19, women and girls also bear a disproportionate burden of the distressing consequences, making them further susceptible. Women and girls need support for protecting themselves from the violence and also for navigating a journey towards a violence free and empowered life.
iCALL, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) therefore joined hands with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women and WHO to train counselors working with One stop centres (OSCs), Special Cells and Family Counselling Courts (FCCs) from five states (Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra). The initiative aimed to deliver support, and enhance the capacities of staff and counselors working at these centers. Informed by a participatory and empowerment- oriented approach, a series of 14 sessions was conducted to address legal, social, health, mental health and criminal justice system related aspects of violence against women and girls, and counseling interventions for the same. Feedback received from the counselors participating in initiative, showed that the series served as an important step towards building capacities of key services to improve quality of response to violence against women and girls.
Objectives of the capacity enhancement initiative:
- To help counselors and social workers providing psycho-social and legal counselling to women survivors of violence, develop a nuanced understanding of violence against women and the theoretical psychosocial concepts that underlie the phenomena.
- To provide counselors with an understanding of specific, strengths-based, psycho-socio-legal counselling techniques and processes and adapt them to the context of COVID-19.
- To build knowledge around laws pertaining to violence against women, its proceses & implementation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To equip the counselors with skills to navigate ethical dilemmas faced during VAW focused counselling.
- To build and enhance self care practises in the counsellors to address their own stressors & build resilience.
- To build curricula that serve as resources aiding an enhanced preparedness for violence counsellors even beyond the COVID pandemic.
Participants: Participants in the capacity enhancement initiative include counselors and social workers at One Stop Centers, Special Cells and family counseling centers as well as Protection Officers and those working with women survivors in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and Rajasthan.
Description of the capacity enhancement sessions: The sessions were delivered through webinars over the course of 6 months. Resource persons for the capacity enhancement initiative included experts and counselors from iCALL as well as experts from the field of health, law and women’s rights. The methodology adopted included powerpoint presentations, case discussions, reflective questions and educational videos. Each session ended with a dedicated time slot for addressing participants’ questions and comments. While the series started with a pre-developed design, regular feedback was sought from the participants regarding specific areas of concern and changes were made to the session plan accordingly.
Each session was attended approximately by 430 counselors across the five states mentioned above. Overall the sessions were received well add stats
Thematic Areas for the sessions
- Violence against Women
- Immediate Response Mechanisms
- Counselling Techniques and Strength Based Approaches for VAW
- Medico-legal Issues
- Best Practices and Protocols
- Ethically Sound Counseling for VAW
- Self Care
About the Partners
iCALL, TISS: iCALL is a field action project initiated by the School of Human Ecology, TISS, and is a national level technology assisted helpline service. iCALL provides counselling, support, information and referral to individuals in emotional and psychological distress over telephone, email, and chat. The service currently runs six days a week, from Monday to Saturday, from 10 AM to 8 PM. Apart from service provision, iCALL engages in various research, capacity building and outreach efforts independently and in partnership with State Governments and NGOs across the country.
UNFPA: The United Nations Population fund is the UN organisation focused on sexual and reproductive health agency. One of its key areas is to prevent and respond to gender-based violence through its work with policymakers and health systems. In collaboration with other UN partners, it is working to improve survivors’ access to quality services such as legal aid, health services and social services (psychosocial counselling, helplines).