Vishakha

Group for Women's Education and Research
APPROACH

Awareness Generation

 Awareness is the first step towards Conscientisation. With rural communities, Vishakha's involvement has been founded on an approach of sharing views, opinions and understanding so that awareness generation is not a one way communication of values and practices but is rooted in an experiential base of the community. Night meetings, residential workshops in the villages and platforms for interactive activities, trainings and discussions were held to ensure that we learn too as we walk along with the people and working together becomes a context for change. Awareness generation can be meaningful when there is an understanding of the cultural values of the place and the psyche of the groups. Once understood, it can be a shared context. Through its Field office in Renwal and extensive field work, awareness generation in communities on issues concerning women, violence and discrimination has been mutually enriching. The VHW (Village Health Worker) model that Vishakha initiated sought to enhance capacities and awareness on health and rights of women in communities in a way that each trainee would become a change agent and thus awareness generation would be a self regulated system within communities.

In the Mahila Salah Evam Suraksha Kendra Programme counseling and outreach with diverse groups and communities become contexts for awareness generation. Awareness on aspects of gender, rights and the patriarchal canvass of violence against women is shared with individual women and groups. Awareness and information lead to processes of self reflection and facilitates decision making by women.


Participation and ownership

As a community based organization, Vishakha is a participatory platform for people from communities to express, explore, internalize and act! Within Programmes, structures are participatory and dialogue is persistent so that communities own initiatives of evolving equity and positive change in the situation of women. Vishakha's Programmes are people focused and hence participation is the key to generating awareness and perspectives to ensure justice and equity for women. In rural Programmes as well as in the Mahila Salah Evam Suraksha Kendra Programme, processes are initiated with due consent for participation and commitment to dignity and individuality of every person.

 

Rights based interventions 

The Third generation Human rights provides an all-encompassing framework for understanding the concept of rights beyond the fundamental rights of every person. The rights based approach upholds multiple contexts of violation and marginalization. Vishakha has viewed its engagement with women and communities within the rights paradigm. The overarching concern has been to explore and facilitate the right of every woman against discrimination and for opportunities to realize her potential in every sphere of self-development and capacity building. Programmes have focused on aspects of health rights, right to education and development, and right to a violence free life. Through advocacy and campaigns, Vishakha has participated in forums for upholding the rights of a girl children and women's right to equity, redressal against violence and laws that promote and prevent violations against women.


Liasoning with Systems and Organizations

 Collaboration and dialogue have been the corner stones of Programmes initiated by Vishakha. Community Programmes refrain from creating parallel structures, rather it combines aspects of right based service delivery through existing Government systems and awareness generation so that positive changes are sustainable.

Sustained dialogue with the Police is a core strategy of the Mahila Salah Evam Suraksha Programme we locate ourselves within the Criminal Justice System. The message that is sent out through the distinct non-threatening process approach of the Centres is that structures are not watertight and that alternative spaces for violence redressal are possible within rights based framework.  

Vishakha has been an active part of the 'Mahila Atyachar Virodhi Janandolan Manch', which was a Rajasthan level network that advocated against violence against women. In Jaipur as well as in various districts, Vishakha networks with various organizations to support and act against violence and gender discrimination.


Advocacy

The Women's Movement in Rajasthan has been a vibrant and vocal struggle particularly against violence.

 The protests against Sati in 1989 in a way brought out into the open the deep seated patriarchal beliefs of a range of powerful people in the state, be it politicians, senior bureaucrats, well placed academics, the large business community and the rural feudal rich. The vastness of the context was suddenly clear, calling openly for sharpness in writing of the text of protest. The campaign for justice for the Sathin of Bhateri village when she was gangraped in 1990 was another opportunity to expose the caste-politics nexus and subsequently for exposing the patriarchal nature of the judiciary after the district court decision acquitting the rapists came up. The struggle has continued ever since

The women's movement in Rajasthan has seen a blending of voices of the rural unlettered and the urban educated women and their concerns. Distinct from most other regions, the movement has also seen an active exchange of energies with other critical peoples' movements in the state.

From demanding for constituting a state women’s commission, to a critical review of the state women’s policy and generating public debate on police practices in registration of domestic violence cases, the medical community’s role in pre natal diagnostic testing or the local media’s representation of women atrocity incidents- The movement has on the one side confronted the State on multiple issues and built pressure, and on the other- stood up for constructive collaborations.

Vishakha has been an active participant in this journey.

In the aftermath of the Bhateri rape case, Vishakha had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India along with 4 other women’s groups resulting in the landmark judgment with the SC issuing guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment at the Workplace. These guidelines are popularly called the Vishakha Guidelines,which became base for the new The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 .