Thursday, November 8, 2018

Social Work for Inclusive Development.!

Prof. T K Thomas
06 Nov, 2018 

Way back in 1988-’89 one was visiting drug and alcohol de-addiction and rehabilitation centers in Delhi and elsewhere as part field study for research to write a 30 episode serial for All India Radio. Radio DATE [ Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco Education] was a joint initiative of All India Radio and the Indian Council of Medical Research [ICMR]. After visiting many centres the head of a government run facility asked what was one’s next place of visit. When he heard Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation he sarcastically commented that at that centre started by the first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi in Sarai Rohilla police station, they were practicing “Danda Therapy”[therapy using the rod]. He was told that as a media person one would go and find out what therapy was being practiced in Navjyoti.

One was warmly received by Suneel Vatsyayan, the young and dynamic Director of Navjyoti, a Master of Social Work from Jamia Millia Islamia [presently member of the governing body of NAPSWI]. He took me around for interaction with the patients. One was convinced that a professional social worker running the centre [with the guidance of a senior police officer who started Navjyoti out of a felt need when Delhi faced large scale addiction and related petty crimes] was not using ‘Danda Therapy’. It was professional social work in action and one was drawn to volunteer for Navjyoti for many years. In fact one was part of a one year programme of training recovering addicts as peer support counselors, supported by the UNODC [then UNDCP] as a trainer and Prof. Sanjai Bhatt of the Delhi School of Social Work was a consultant.

It was therefore, a learning experience and an opportunity to discern between two streams of academic disciplines by attending the three day 6th Indian Social Work Congress 2018 on the theme “Human Development and Social Inclusion: Imperatives for Social Work Education and Practice” in Delhi last week[1-3 November] organized by the National Association of Professional Social Workers in India[NAPSWI]. The earlier Congresses were held in Delhi, Pune, Rajasthan,Varanasi and Kerala and the 7th will be in Lucknow.

The focus on Human Development and Inclusion in the theme opened up food for thought for contextualizing contemporary challenges in social work. According to a Congress spokesperson ‘’Human Development is the process of enhancing the human capabilities to expand choices and opportunities, so that a person can lead a life of respect and value’’. Similarly, “Social inclusion strives for many purposes for socially excluded people. It attempts to establish an egalitarian social order based on ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity in place of social order based on mutually exclusive social categories such as caste and race”. The above mentioned Navjyoti / UNODC programme of training recovering addicts as peer support counselors is an excellent example of social inclusion of bringing socially rejected addicts to the mainstream.

One also learn that the Congress had for its deliberations, the UN document titled “ Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” marking a paradigm shift towards a more balanced model for sustainable development.

It is heartening that the Congress and the social work fraternity endeavored to contribute towards understanding, analyzing and interpreting the sustainable development goals in the context of social work education and practice towards achieving human development and social inclusion.

The Congress provided an opportunity to know more about the profession of social work and its present application. A cursory look at the sheer numbers of the Congress is proof enough to the significance and the volume of work transacted- 655 participants [from institutions/ colleges /universities and voluntary organizations from almost all states], presence of 7 vice chancellors, Vice Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, 3 Members of Parliament, 165 paper presentations and release of eight books. The speakers included a veritable who’s who from the profession and academics, besides practitioners.

To a layperson there is often no distinction between sociology and social work. Social work is generally perceived as acts of kindness, altruism or even philanthropy. Many aspiring politicians do social service to attract public support. Of course both sociology and social work education draw their knowledge base from similar body of knowledge. While sociologists are largely involved in research and study, social workers apply their knowledge in alleviating problems and concerns of individuals and families; social work is a ‘people business’ indeed.

It was difficult to catch up with all the deliberations of the three day Congress and quote from presentations by erudite scholars. However one would flag a few sessions of the Congress. The multidisciplinary approach and nature of social work were evident from the speeches, presentations and discussions. As social work deals with the problems of people, the range of deliberations encompassed almost all areas of human activity and behavior. The topics chosen for the sessions and paper presentations included, to name a few- ‘’Social Justice and Human Rights’’, “ Health and Social Work’’, “Indianisation of Social Work, “Malnutrition”, “Social Work and Child Rights”, “Corporate Social Responsibility: Social Problems, Violence and Criminal Justice”, “Gender Discourse”, “Mental Health” etc.

As part of highlighting just a few areas from among deliberations on a large number of issues, let’s start with the Panel Discussion on ‘Malnutrition’. It threw up important issues by experts including senior government functionaries. Rising hunger in India is a concern even as in the Global Hunger Index we rank 103 of 194 nations. People in the urban settings are more prone to malnutrition. Climate change and global warming are threatening food production and security. The increasing consumption of fast foods like pizzas, burgers and noodles is depriving children of natural food. The big shift in food crop production to commercial crops results in lesser access to locally grown natural food. Multi layer farming in small holdings would increase food production for farmers’ sustenance. There is no strict quality control on the food grains in the public distribution system and many products are packed in harmful materials. Well, these are some of the issues that call for the attention of social workers who have a task at hand for advocacy and dissemination of relevant information.

Prof. Sanjai Bhatt, introduced a topic which of late has emerged as a matter of debate- Indianization of professional social work and social work education. Evolution of Social work education in India was discussed. The credit for pioneering social work education goes to the Tatas. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences [ TISS] established in 1936 in Nagpada and then in Andheri in Bombay [now Mumbai] is the oldest institute of social work in Asia. Started as Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of social Work by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, it was rechristened in 1944 as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. TISS came to its permanent campus in Deonar and later started many other campuses. In 1964 the government of India declared TISS as a deemed university. Over the years TISS has emerged as an iconic institution and later various schools of social work like the well known Delhi School of Social Work have come up across the country with thousands of young people passing out each year to pursue professional social work.

The first director of TISS was American Sociologist Dr. Clifford Manshardt. For a new academic discipline like social work, obviously the syllabus and pedagogy came from the west and all the theories- psychosocial, psychodynamic, transpersonal, cognitive or systems were entirely western and so were readings from Sigmund Freud , Erikson or Skinner. Later Indian academics like Prof. Shankar Pathak or Prof. M Y Qureshi brought out textbooks of social work. Now, the debate in the Congress was on the relevance and suitability of western theories and texts for our social work students. Some of the senior academicians opined that it is difficult to replace time tested theories but the practices are now specific and suitably adopted for our aspiring social work practitioners. There were a few dissenting voices demanding a thorough overhauling of the syllabi, texts and practices based on Indian heritage and her ancient wisdom. This debate is sure to continue for years to come.

Whatever discussions one heard, were sadly bereft of Gandhi ji and his genre of social work with volunteers or Sathyagrahis involved in constructive work for social transformation. It was therefore a grand finale for the 6th Indian Social Work Congress 2018 to have a valedictory address by none other than the new Vice Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harbans Narain Singh invoking the Father of the Nation in the context of social work. He specially mentioned the concept of Buniyadi Shiksha Kendras started by the Mahatma to catch children young to be self reliant. His erudition and experience were evident in his address. One would conclude with Gandhi ji’s famous Talisman as a Mantra for everyone :-

‘’ I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test:

Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to control over his own life and destiny? That test alone can make our plans and programmes meaningful.”

- Prof. T.K Thomas, Senior Journalist.


Monday, September 17, 2018

37 billion hours of support to family members coping with the realities of aging and illness....Most ignored contribution of caregivers

MOST OF US KNOW SOMEONE who is a caregiver. Many of us (40 million, in fact) are caregivers, providing 37 billion hours of support to family members coping with the realities of aging and illness. Twenty million new caregivers joined their ranks last year, so chances are good that you, too, could become a caregiver (if you’re not already one).

Those are just some of the eye-popping stats revealed in a new report, “The Journey of Caregiving,” produced by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave, a thought leader in the study of aging and its implications for society.

While many previous studies have looked at caregiving’s physical and emotional challenges, very few have explored its financial costs. “Many caregivers find they have to dip into their savings or take on debt to cover expenses,” notes Cynthia Hutchins, director of Financial Gerontology for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Read more

Gender is still an unfinished agenda... says Life Coach VatsyayaN

Conditional better half?

........Life coach Suneel Vatsyayan agrees with this and points out that the matrimonial advertisement is an explicit expression of his actual expectation from a would-be bride, and these expectations mirror a disturning truth prevalent in our society. “In reality the ‘non-feminist’ is an undercurrent norm of inequality prevailing in the society. Unfortunately it is the deciding factor in marriages in general and relationships in particular. Gender equality makes people uncomfortable and their search for unequal partner remains unending and unfinished. This man looking for a bride seems to be degrading, offensive and wild in his expression of expectations from his partner. Gender is still an unfinished agenda for majority in our society irrespective of urban and rural divide,” he says.
Many women are the finding the non-feminist clause to be most disturbing.
 Many women are the finding the non-feminist clause to be most disturbing.
A matrimonial advertisement in a leading daily that is causing an uproar on social media has a 37-year-old industrialist seeking a bride, and his specific demands are that she should be a non-smoker, non-feminist, good cook, never have been married before or having any child, and should be under the age of 26 years. The ad that has gone viral is receiving a massive backlash and many are fuming at the regressive and misogynist mentality that still exists and is flaunted without any qualms.
“After so many phases of women’s movement I am still surprised that leading publications provide space for such regressive advertisements. In the name of generating revenues we can’t let online and offline portals get away with publishing such things. And some sites make it easier for people with prejudices to feel that their sexist/class/ caste views are valid and legitimate,” says Paroma Ray, activist.
Many women are the finding the non-feminist clause to be most disturbing. “To me the most objectionable part of this ad is the non-feminist clause which clearly reflects that she should have no voice of her own. Without the non-feminist clause, conditions like non-smoker could be a personal choice, which even a woman looking for a match could have asked for. It is high time feminism is accepted as a right — a right to have equal rights to career, health, financial, fertility and social choices. A right to respect, dignity and freedom of expression. That is feminism. If anyone says that he wants a non-feminist wife he is declaring that he intends to be dominating, discriminating and perhaps abusive. This definitely deserves a massive public backlash where the country declares that such kind of dark paradigms are not acceptable anymore,” opines Niru Kumar, senior psychologist.

“Doing nothing with awareness can be positive....Life Coach Suneel Vatsyayan

Of devil’s workshopsThe adage goes, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ but life coach Suneel Vatsyayan believes, “Doing nothing with awareness can be positive and can help you harness something  unexplored. There is no harm in stopping for a while for sometime but without losing control. It can also be destructive and can lead to risky behaviour like substance use.”....

 Many people are celebrating the slow moments of life that have become increasingly rare in this fast-paced world and embracing the joy of un busyness.

With the concepts of going slow, celebrating un busyness and the art of doing nothing gaining traction, boredom is no longer a bad space to be in. 
 With the concepts of going slow, celebrating un busyness and the art of doing nothing gaining traction, boredom is no longer a bad space to be in.
In these technology-driven times, it has become rare to hear that one is bored. There is so much to occupy one’s mind. Life is breathlessly fast-paced. Demanding careers, personal responsibilities, increasing social anxieties — the list is long... But there is one thing that people seem to unanimously agree upon — the ‘me time’, the lazy day and even a boring one is welcome now. With the concepts of going slow, celebrating unbusyness and the art of doing nothing gaining traction, boredom is no longer a bad space to be in. It can add new depth and dimension to life — the many plus points include respite from stress, a much needed mind pause, encouraging reflection and creativity. However, not all reasons to switch off lead to the pond of wisdom. We find out.

Striking a chord of creativity
Artist and curator, Alka Raghuvanshi believes that creativity has to emerge from a space of Eros and not Thanatos, where boredom lies. “One requires consistency in order to create but to take that work to a spectacular level, one also needs a stroke of insight — that will only happen when you are prodding. The one per cent of blessing that will change any work can only come when one waits. I might not finish a painting at one go. Breaks provide insights. But it can’t be called boredom that inspires us, I would call it resting.”

Author Ravinder Singh, who has written many bestsellers, also loves such days but carefully differentiates between boredom, laziness and free time. He says, “Certainly not a boring or a lazy day but a day where I can be myself and have time to spend and think about a lot of things. It is a time that I can enjoy on my own. I am alone but not lonely. It could also be a moment wherein I enjoy the eco-system around me that motivates me a lot. Getting up in the morning silence and knowing that I have the rest of the day to myself and there is nothing that I need to plan — it leaves me in a phase where there is a lot of energy around me....

Monday, May 21, 2018

Creating a safe environment of acceptance of issues which are hard to talk about ,”Says Vatsyayan

A still from the film Silver Linings

Will stars outshine stigma?

THE ASIAN AGE. | KAVI BHANDARI Published : May 22, 2018, 12:03 am IST
....It’s very easy to accept physical illness, whereas one tends to equate the mind to ones existence and sense of self. “Having something wrong with one’s mind leads to the feeling of losing oneself, which can be quite frightening. This in turn leads to suppression or denial of one’s state of mind. The only way to deal with this is to face it,” says Dr Mamta Shah, Clinical Psychologist.

On the other hand, life coach Suneel Vatsyayan, feels it doesn’t have a large impact, “It is temporary. We welcome and respect their courage to talk about their mental health issues and it is good for them to talk once they have gained strength. People put celebrities on high pedestal and there is a disconnect. Celebrities have star power and good intentions, but it needs sustained efforts like Deepika Padukone’s foundation about mental health. More and people need to come forward from different walks of life with their personal experience in creating a safe environment of acceptance of issues which are hard to talk about,” he signs off.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Media concealed the details and processes behind Kate’s public appearance...says Life Coach S.Vatsyayan

Kate Middleton’s flawless public appearance, barely seven hours after giving birth, did not go well with moms who saw it as setting unreal standards.
Kate Middleton’s flawless public appearance, barely seven hours after giving birth, did not go well with moms who saw it as setting unreal standards. We explore what all it takes for one to embrace the tough side of pregnancy and motherhood....
Counselor and life coach Suneel Vatsyayan strongly believes that the media concealed the details and processes behind Kate’s public appearance. “We always look at people from a distance so we miss the details. How a woman accepts her body as a mother is important and not to forget, culture-specific. But when we identify ourselves in comparison with others, we undervalue ourselves and motherhood.”

 A homemaker, Samriddhi Suri, who recently became a mother feels that it is a constant battle between body, mind and soul. “It’s around the clock job without any appreciation or incentive, purely based on personal contentment. It’s the most fulfilling experience for any woman but the societal pressure of being a “perfect mom” adds to the mental stress. Adding to the agony, celebrity mothers set unrealistic targets for being an ‘ideal’ mother,” shares the 26-year-old.

To each his own
Author Meghna Pant gave birth nine months ago and within few weeks she was busy shooting for her show. “I realised I was giving myself a hard time with those extra pounds and I became self-conscious. Despite being evolved and being a feminist, you are not used to seeing slightly larger women on screen, whatever the reason be,” says Pant, who asserts the need to normalise body shapes of all type. “If you are a mother and want to shed the extra weight, then it is your prerogative. The same way we shouldn’t judge Kate or any women for looking the way they want to. And if it is the profession that requires you to look thin, then good for you. Trust me it is a lot of work to get your body back in shape.”

At the same time, author Kiran Manral says, “We have to realise Kate is not the typical new mother. She is a royal and there are expectations of certain perfection. She definitely has help, even her stylist went to the hospital to make sure she is well groomed before she steps out. Whereas, we are least bothered at the time of pregnancy as to how we look. I think to each his own. While there are some who care to look presentable, for some it is not even a point of concern.”

Stealing the thunder
But the folly lies in expecting every mother to be immaculately groomed after delivery. There have been articles floating around telling women how to look like Kate after delivery. Why are these unrealistic expectations being set? “If one wishes to look like Kate well and good, if not let her be. Whats important is not to downplay how difficult the process of giving birth is by shifting the whole focus on looks post one’s pregnancy. Giving birth is the most difficult experience. By changing the entire narrative of how a woman looks after delivery and ignoring the fact that her body has changed drastically, you are doing a disservice,” says Kiran. She blames the social pressure and the constant fear of being trolled for the same. “People can be snide but women should remember that it was your body that has nurtured a life for nine months despite a lot of stress and changes. This is the body you should respect instead of belittling it. Sadly, our society doesn’t accept the fact that motherhood is the toughest part of a woman’s life — a matter of life and death — our society diminishes the entire experience,” she adds.

Reality strikes
The image created by the celebrities often makes people yearn to reach the beauty standards that talk about glowing skin during pregnancy. But they often find themselves falling short of these expectations and standards. Shahnaz Husain feels that the rise of social media has had a part to play in raising the standards that one wants to achieve. “People post happy pictures of their pregnancy and motherhood. But in reality, there is a dark side to it, with anxieties about coping with the new motherhood status, the post-partum blues, weight gain, stretch marks, lack of sleep, the stress of managing children and so on. However, help is not far away. We must first accept the fact that we do not have to conform to any standards and expectations. Talk to your doctor or consult a psychologist. Counseling, a nutritious diet and breathing exercises can help you get back on track and enjoy this wonderful phase of life,” says Husain....