Community Counselling Centres – a resource centre for children, women, and youth

“Baahar ke logon ke saamne bolte hue dar lagta hai. Jab pata chala ki gaon mein counseling ki jayegi, toh dar bhi gaya aur mahilaon ko khud ko vyakt karne ka ek zariya bhi mil gaya”, Chaaya Jadhav, Village Sokasan, Taluka Man, District Satara.

It was heartening to come across similar feedback from several women accessing Community Counseling Centers in the villages of Beed, Nandurbar, and Satara, districts. These centres, set up by CORO India are trying to address several gender-based issues prevailing in these districts. CORO’s work over the last four (4) years has aimed at creating 50 model villages in these districts wherein the village management takes accountability for the rights of women and children and under its leadership, the entire ecosystem around women and children gets gender-sensitive.

CORO has been carrying out various awareness generation activities, with women, youth, and children, around their rights with a special focus on gender. As informed individuals, these women and children decided to take charge of ensuring the protection of their rights. However, they felt the need to have a support structure that could facilitate their efforts. Thus, the Community Counseling Centers were set up in many villages with the support of the local Gram Sabha. The women and child protection guidelines were approved by Gram Sabha to address the issues of violence against women and children.

CORO and the community members formed Community Based Organizations (CBOs) such as Samta Mahila Sanghatan in Satara district and Hengatya Mahila Sanghatan in Nandurbar district.

Through these CBOs many women groups and youth groups were formed. The youth groups played a very proactive role in spreading awareness amongst the villagers about the Counseling Centers. They played the role of a mediator between the Gram Panchayat and the women and children.

To make sure that the objective of the counselling centres is spread far and wide, they did nukad nataks in the villages. They went ahead and mobilized the women to come forward and approach the counselling centres for all their concerns.

A contact centre within the village was a need expressed by women and children themselves. Onset of Covid 19 pandemic and the resulting social isolation and economic insecurity increased the vulnerability of women and children. There was a visible increase in violence and injustice against them. Thus, arose the need to have counselling/contact centres.

“Hummare gaon ko is tarah ki counseling ki sakht zaroorat thi. Pehel humaare gaon ki mahilaon aur yuvaon ne ki thi aur yeh humaare liye achcha tha ki hum unki madad kar paaye. Lekin counseling kendra mein na sirf auraton, bachchon, aur yuvaon, ko balki purushon ko bhi counseling di jaain chahiye”, Amar Raut, Sarpanch, Village Kandimali, Taluke Kej, District Beed.

Located within the village premises, these centres are within easy reach of the women and children. Easy accessibility makes the centres approachable for the village community. These are spaces where women and children can come and share any of their problems and look for possible solutions. These are also resource centres where all information related to existing laws towards the protection of women and children will be made available in a simplified form. For those who may not be keen on adopting a formal redressal mechanism for any injustice faced, coming, and letting out any bottled-up emotions will be cathartic.

As a way forward, the Gram Panchayat should continue taking formal responsibility of these centres. The village women leaders are operating it and should continue to do so. In Satara, the women leaders have received formal training on counselling by the Women and Child Welfare Department. These women have taken full charge of counselling and guiding women and children visiting the centres.

“Gaon ki mahilaon aur bachchon ko ek saath baithne ki jagah mili aur mahilaon ke muddon pe kaam karne waali mahilaein bhi mili”, Village Bokuljhar, Taluka Nawapur, District Nandurbar.

CORO India has successfully opened 33 centres and a plan for the opening of another 17 centres is underway. It is a matter of pride that the village ecosystem is gradually building sensitivity towards violence against women and children. Enacting a step forward and the outcome involves sensitization activities by village youth groups and emerging counselling centres.