We believe that each and every member of society has a role to play in ending violence against women. Through our outreach programmes we attempt an analysis of the causes of violence and discuss ways in which different social groups can combat it. These programmes are conducted in different ways - through exhibitions of posters, workshops, discussions, film shows, theatre performances and other cultural mediums. We conduct these programmes with the following groups:
These programmes are meant for students at the School, College and University levels. It has been our constant endeavour to sensitize ‘future adults’ to the issues of gender inequality and woman’s rights, and what constitutes violence. We also work with and involve the teachers to make the program sustainable.
Regular workshops, film shows and a poster exhibition entitled ‘Half a Sky’ are held at various educational institutions across the state. In 2004 alone, we have successfully conducted 15 awareness programs with 12 schools and colleges in West Bengal.
We believe our efforts have borne fruit - in many institutions, the student and teacher bodies have come forward to join Swayam as volunteers. Others have requested regular interactions in their institutions.
Judges, Lawyers, Law Students
Women facing violence often approach the Criminal Justice System for redress and it is important that an organisation like Swayam that works with survivors of violence, interacts with the system to make it more gender sensitive and receptive to women’s needs.
We have, over the past eight years, been members of the Management team of the Asia Pacific Advisory Forum on Judicial Education on Equality Issues. This is a unique forum of Judges and NGO’s that imparts gender equality education primarily to judges but also to lawyers, law students and public prosecutors. It is the only Forum in the world we know of where judges and NGO’s work together to design and deliver equality education to judges. At present we have five High Court judges from West Bengal on our training team.
Over the years, we have conducted 9 workshops, seminars and talks with judges, judicial officers, law faculty and lawyers. Of these, 5 have been workshops on gender equality with 125 judicial officers in West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Jharkhand. As a result of these trainings, we have seen a positive impact on the attitudes and decision making of some of the judges who have undergone the training.
Interacting with police at various levels is an integral part of Swayam’s work as we have to approach different police stations in and around Kolkata with the cases of individual women affected by violence. Police attitudes towards women who register cases with them, directly impacts the outcome of their case. Thus training police on gender issues is imperative and gender sensitisation programmes with the Kolkata & West Bengal police is a key outreach programme of Swayam.
We believe that it is essential to work at the grassroots level among disadvantaged sections of society. Many local clubs and other groups working at the community level in Kolkata and the surrounding areas, approach us after identifying and assessing the preliminary needs of the women in their community. Accordingly, we design and conduct meetings, workshops, seminars, rallies and other programmes with these women directly. These programmes give the women an opportunity to talk about the violence they face in their everyday lives, to understand the social context that perpetuates it and find out how they can organise and get help to deal with it. At the same time, we are able to give them information about Swayam so that they can approach us for help in times of need. We also work with men in these communities.
It is critical to sensitise the general public, particularly men, as we feel that no major change can occur unless society at large changes. We create awareness amongst the general public using various means like poster exhibitions, theatre, films, cultural programmes, talks, seminars etc. Swayam’s Theatre Group performs regularly in public places and is a very effective tool to ignite social consciousness.