Details for Reform Option "Counselling centre for women, Thane, Maharashtra"
Violence against women is widespread in India (female infanticide; poor care of female children; dowry-related disputes) but there is very little support for victims of domestic violence.
Although the abuse cuts across class barriers, the worst affected group are poor, illiterate women and as such the violence goes widely unreported. It is generally considered to be a private matter, requiring no outside intervention, be it legal or medical.
Aarohi Counselling Centre was set up in March 2001 by a Non Government Organisation (NGO) of the same name in an effort to address the dire need for support services for women in Thane, a densely populated area with a growing slum population.
The centre is a collaboration with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Thane Municipal Corporation’s Integrated Population and Development project, supported by UNFPA.
Worldwide research and practice has shown that the health system is an important entry point for women facing domestic violence. For this reason the Aarohi Centre is situated in a tertiary level hospital, the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaji Hospital, Kalwa. An established link between the Outpatient Department (OPD) and the centre means doctors can refer women to Aarohi for counselling after they have been treated for physical injuries.
Services at the Women’s Centre include:
(i) Counselling: providing non-judgemental support, explaining gender inequalities and exploring women’s strengths. The process aims to prevent further episodes of violence and also to generate self-empowerment
(ii) Working with couples, families and significant others including children
(iii) Facilitating medical help
(iv) Facilitating police help: registering and filing a complaint
(v) Facilitating legal help: explaining legal rights, providing legal aid in cases of litigation
(vi) 48-hour emergency shelter within the hospital
(vii) Referral services by networking with other NGOs including organisations providing shelter, employment and vocational training.
The centre also does outreach work in three phases:
(i) Linking with the education sector, where, working with partner NGOs, they reach out to school drop-outs and adolescents from lower socio-economic groups to offer them life skills education, negotiating skills and general health information. Their strategy is preventive, involving workshops and discussion on issues such as gender and sexuality.
(ii) At district court level. They try to sensitise lawyers by conducting workshops.
(iii) Enrolling MA social science students to go out into the community and work with women.
Aarohi also runs an adolescent and youth centre with a helpline attended by trained professionals.
While no data has yet been analysed, the Aarohi Crisis Centre has counselled more than 300 women in four years and receives two new clients per week on average, although the flow tends to vary according to the season. The response to follow-up services has been good, with some women returning regularly for four years. The number of referrals has also increased, both from within and from outside the hospital and the relationship with hospital staff is good.
The helpline receives two to three calls per day on average, during the two hours that it is operational, although following a publicity drive the number of calls increases.
Counsellors stress that it is a steady process. Their primary baseline is challenging entrenched beliefs about gender roles. Most women don’t want to leave their homes because there is no alternative open to them. The centre’s success is measured by the extent to which the women they help learn to negotiate with their husbands, to control their own finances, to assert their own rights with regard to sex or work and most importantly, to believe that they are not responsible for the violence and not to be blamed for it. They say that at all levels they can see transformation in the women.
Information not available.
Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaji Hospital, Kalwa, Thane, from 2001.
The centre was set up after three years of research in a municipal set up.
Support: The centre offers advice and a safe environment for women victims of violence.
Education: Women are instructed on their legal rights as well as given information on common diseases such as STDs and stress related illnesses
Awareness of medical staff: Through sensitisation programmes run by the women’s centre, hospital staff are made aware of the emotional and psychological damage women have suffered and are encouraged to refer them for counselling
Sensitisation of youth: Through life skills sessions young people learn about harmonious relationships and how to avoid violence.
Limited reach: The crisis centre depends on women coming to the hospital for treatment before they can be referred for counselling.
Dependent on referral from doctors: Medical staff concentrating on physical injuries may not know about their cause.
A hospital or other medical institute with an OPD.
Funding from donor or other areas.
Dedicated team of trained counsellors with a gender sensitive perspective.
Who needs to be consulted
The hospital providing the premises (in this case Chatrapati Shivaji Maharai Hospital, owned by Thane Municipal Corporation).
The organisation providing technical support and consultation (in this case Tata Institute of Social Sciences).
Funding agency (in this case UNFPA).
As long as link with medical staff remains strong and women pass on information by word of mouth the program is sustainable.
Chances of Replication
Prerequisites need to be met.
Tessa Laughton, Research Consultant, ECTA, New Delhi. February 2005