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Non-violent communication in violent times

Apr 2 2014 / Posted in Gender Violence


On a hot Saturday afternoon, Queen, Elvis Presley, Scarlet Johansson, Wonderwoman, Bubble, Free, Love, Kind, Lavanya, among others got together in an Artisans, an art gallery in Kala Ghoda. Women seemingly from disparate backgrounds and ages got together, assumed names they loved, and discussed the issues that concern them.

About 15 women gathered for a workshop — Negotiating Safe Spaces: Non Violent Communication -  a workshop for women organised by SNEHA. Dr Nayreen Daruwalla, programme director, Prevention of Violence against Women and Children and her associate, Gauri Ambavkar, programme coordinator facilitated the workshop. The gallery was showcasing the installations of old saris with slogans of rape. The installations were worn by women from Dharavi who made them for a photo shoot and a fashion show.

The definition of violence, Dr. Daruwalla said, has changed over a period of time for women. Earlier women come to SNEHA with bleeding noses and dislocated hands. Now, women talk of violence in the context of emotional violence where they are disrespected, verbally abused and are not given their own safe space. Violence can now be defined as violation of someone’s existence. Unfortunately our culture only reckons physical violence.

“Women are so busy fulfilling their roles that it does not leave us time to feel. Sharing ones needs and feelings is considered a taboo in our society, to the extent that needs are never spoken about over a period of time and become displaced conflicts,” said Dr Daruwalla.

Non violent communication gives the strength to a woman to understand her conflicts and assertively share her feelings and needs towards a healthy relationship.

Some of the participants felt that men are even more suppressed than women when it comes to coming out with feelings. “If a boy is playing with a doll, or seen crying he is called a sissy. That itself is violence. These emotions get bottled up over a period of time,” said one of them.

The participants were shown cards with names of emotions written on them, such as Anger, Vulnerable, Peaceful, Inspired among others and were asked to identify with any of them. “When I was a child I would burst into tears at the slightest hurt. Now I realise that I felt I was not allowed to express anger, and so I would burst out crying,” said Gauri.

One of the participants correctly pointed out that while she was angry about something that is going on in her life, but when she examined her emotion closer, she realised that she is angry because she felt vulnerable.

Expressing ones feeling in a non-violent way is crucial. “We are a culture of too many words. Being assertive does not always mean being aggressive, “said Dr Nayreen. The workshop ended with a powerful message that no one can make you feel inferior.


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