Transcript of "SWABHIMAAN - EMPOWERMENT FOR DEAF WOMEN IN INDIA"
PROJECT OF THE DEAF WAY FOUNDATION
The Deaf Way Foundation (TDWF) has
been working with deaf people for about
14 years. Prior to this the founder and
Executive Director, Arun C Rao, had been
setting up and developing the “Deaf
Friendship Club Project” culminating in the
establishing of the All India Deaf Friendship
Club with 78 city partners.
The first discovery
During this time in 2002 Arun C Rao, himself a
parent of a deaf child, had been training deaf
people to be counselors among the deaf. In the
course of the work he found a large number of
terrible stories of abuse of minors and adults the
majority being deaf women. The experience
culminated in a paper outlining the abuse and was
presented at the World Federation of the Deaf’s,
World Deaf Congress in Montreal in 2003.
At that time there was no civil society
organization working on deaf women and
abuse among deaf women. There was also
no organization for the protection of deaf
people’s rights, or any interpreters working
for deaf people or even a justice system
and a matching social network support
system or legal recourse through
organizations working for deaf people.
The TDWF worked on various fronts until they felt
that it was time to address issues that were long
neglected or rather ineffectively dealt with after the
fact. TDWF started by holding empowerment
workshops for women and discussing rights and
roles and responsibilities and so forth among the
deaf group creating a solidarity platform that deaf
women could relate too. It was again obvious that
much more was needed and minors were still not
The idea of Swabhimaan was mooted, a project
under the TDWF that would provide valuable
information and counsel about personal rights and
sexual rights of deaf women. The idea was to work
with young adults and married women initially and
then filter into schools to the minor community with
classes on reproductive health, safe behavior and
prevention of abuse.
Obviously there was a need for women to do this
and also deaf women to lead the project. The
capacity was found lacking and the TDWF
contacted a leading expert on Gender issues and
shared the concept that we had for the project to
be called Swabhimaan (Pride in one’s self).
The idea was that a sample series of workshops
would be conducted with and by TDWF staff
numbering 7 at the time which would first of all
address their own issues and through these
women support and address the public after a TOT
type of program where the first group would go
ahead and conduct the workshops with deaf
The organizational aim of TDWF has
always been to give the knowledge and the
skills to the ones best suited to use it and in
this case deaf women. We found that the
issues needed to be explained and worked
into a format appreciated by deaf people
The people we wanted to work as trainers had no real
knowledgebase to work from beyond personal experience
and in the beginning they themselves were in need of help
counseling and emancipation from their own thinking in many
ways. The communication strategies and the issue based
workshops were developed by Ms Nandini Rao after
discussion with the TDWF team and subsequent tweaking
and modification was done before it was passed on as a
workshop to the community.
The first set of 5 workshops was conducted in
tandem with the expert Ms Rao and in the second
set of 5 workshops she was able to step back and
critique the performance of the TDWF team as
The workshops follows a simple system of
progressively introducing issues over the 5 day
period and uses various strategies and games and
group work to convey the message.
So as we trained our own staff, though many left
us subsequently, our staff are still continuing to
conduct the workshops on a regular basis and the
others are peer counselors in their own
communities where they work and live today.
The program has been extremely well received with many
participants coming out feeling far more proud of themselves
as having worth and value and not being targets of abuse
and oppression of various types. A large number have also
shared incidents of abuse as minors by teachers, caregivers
and family. Even more share incidents of abuse as wives in
the form of domestic violence, reproductive rights, financial
issues and domination by male members to an undue extent
even in our society.
the way forward
TDWF is now considering conducting these workshops
across the country including south India. A second TOT for
interested persons in Bangalore and Delhi will be launched.
A Series of workshops based on simple biology classes for
high school stuents is also on the anvil.
We will be collaborating with school and NGOs with
vocational courses with youth for this aspect.