Counseling experiences in gender sensitization

There are case studies that reflect the role of a coordinator as counselor in distance education
"Four years later when we were preparing a list of dropout candidates I was shocked that this girl had appeared in one of the theory papers and was marked absent in rest of the papers." [Representational Image]
"Four years later when we were preparing a list of dropout candidates I was shocked that this girl had appeared in one of the theory papers and was marked absent in rest of the papers." [Representational Image] msmagazine [Creative Commons]

During last Ramzan I met an unknown sister who was shedding tears at the grave of her father. She was the victim of domestic abuse; as she narrated, at mid night she was thrown away from her in-laws’ house.

This article is dedicated to such hapless souls. Being the father of a daughter I pray to Allah to shower his mercy and blessings on our girl children.       

Academic Counseling is an amalgamation of general counseling and tutoring. In our Distance Education system we conduct personal-contact-cum-counseling classes where we move beyond academics and try to resolve the personal-social crisis of our students.

In our BEd programme we have significant number of girl pupil teachers who get married while pursuing the course. The investigator was interested to test the hypothesis whether there exists any relation between marital discord and high dropout incidence among the married girl pupil teachers.

After collecting many case studies the investigator reached the conclusion that marital discord disturbs the academic schedule and mental health of married girl pupil teachers and results in high dropout incidence. I shall share few case studies to validate my argument.

In my BEd programme there was a girl who was academically very vibrant. She had attended all the contact classes; she had put her sweat and blood in preparing her assignments. She was chosen as class representative by dint of her leadership qualities.

Four years later when we were preparing a list of dropout candidates I was shocked that this girl had appeared in one of the theory papers and was marked absent in rest of the papers.

Since we had switched to two year BEd programme and university had offered a mercy chance for those BEd students who were enrolled for one year BEd programme but could not complete the degree for one or the other reason. I wanted to know the reason why this girl had dropped out from the course. Through student tracking mechanism we located the girl.

I along with my wife visited her residence; she was living in a rented accommodation along with her one year old daughter, and her mother. She narrated her ordeal.

During the same year she was enrolled for BEd programme, her marriage date was fixed. At the start everything was ok and her mother-in-law and husband were desperately expecting a son from her; this stressed her pregnancy period.

Her husband was so psychic that at mid night he used to wake up and focus torch on the USG report to identify the sex of the child. She gave birth to a daughter who had foot deformity called polysyndactly (extra toe with fingers fused).

The attitude of husband changed overnight. He proved to be a cold-blooded mammal; he made her life a living hell and divorced her. She returned back to her parental house. Due to sustained stress, her father received a stroke and died of cardiac arrest. Relation with sister-in–law got strained and she had to move to a rented accommodation.

When someone uses to discredit or disapprove of normal things that you need to have, it can cause hollowness and emptiness. Small negative remarks on a daily basis are not normal; they are a form of emotional abuse.

Whatever little as counselor I could, I decided to do. First, we boosted her lost spirit. I talked to my friend. He appointed her as teacher in a private school. Meanwhile, I did a lot of research on google on foot deformity and consulted leading plastic surgeons and orthopedics.

Finally through cosmetic surgery her foot deformity was corrected and she could wear shoes easily. Meanwhile this girl continued her studies; I provided her best student–support-services and personal library-support-services. She completed her MEd, appeared for 10+2 screening, qualified it with 81 points and was appointed as 10+2 lecturer on permanent basis.

This case study reflects how education can lead from darkness to light, how it can be a tool for women empowerment. This case study also reflects the role of a coordinator as counselor in distance education.

I shall present here another case study of a dropout married lady, who narrated her ordeal with the investigator. She was enrolled for BEd programme through distance mode but had dropped from the course due to sustained emotional abuse by her in-laws. Post-counseling she completed her degree. 

I use direct quote to express her feelings: “A newly wedded lady is in her most vulnerable phase. If she is denied love and acceptance, it can drain her mentally.

At the time of marriage she is leaving the comfort, the warmth, the peace, the belonging of her parental home and entering into a new place which she would now call as home.

She is taking a leap of unpunctuated faith on a man who promises to understand and uphold her respect. She is used to living, thinking, feeling, being a certain way and she is worried if she will be accepted, loved and valued for who she is.

Many times in this critical phase of huge transition she is treated as an outsider, her life partner ignores her and display consistently what she does is unacceptable, that her expectation for receiving love is too much, that she should only please, serve and give.

This obstinate behavior and choking environment can break her from inside. It can induce fear, shock, pain, uncertainty and regret in her. It can make her feel abandoned, the sense of fear is heightened due to the extreme change she gets, from a loving environment to one where she feels lonely and under-appreciated. So many married ladies in this phase fall into depression. This is called post marriage depression. They feel lost; their appreciative sense is not addressed.”

After listening to her painful story I suggested her to seek help and turn down the feeling of being abandoned. I shared many success stories and inspirational YouTube videos with her which rejuvenated her lost spirit.

To keep engaged in a constructive activity she re-registered back for the course and completed her degree. I shall share another case study of a married dropout lady, post counseling she also completed her degree. I shall use direct quote regarding her feeling which she shared with the investigator.

“Most awful pain for me was that I was lonely while struggling with chronic depression. My in laws created such a choked environment that I lost patience and mental equilibrium. My own life partner would tell me that I cry just to seek attention. He would leave me alone when I was crying. He would pass remarks and taunts that were hurtful. He would abuse my dead father. No one wants to cry all day and night. When something is broken within and there is no patient, empathetic hearing, only then you can cry like this.  When life partner does not give love and rather reminds in a sarcastic way of your weakness in a public domain, you display withdrawal tendencies. I had experienced  so much in life in last few years - setbacks, no support, blame games, life issues - that I was feeling devastated. I was disappointed by the dual behavior of the people around. When I started experiencing betrayals, I started losing hope. Dealing with hopelessness and extreme anxiety was my daily breakfast.  I would cry, I would keep gazing and looking at things around but not be able to change anything. I was unable to take action. Sadness, confusion, procrastination, lack of clarity would keep me at the same place unmoved for hours.”     

Through non-directive counseling approach I helped my client to break the inertial frame and wake each morning at the time of fajr with a sense of direction. Praying five times a day proved a compass in her life. Depression is one of the toughest emotional issue.

Rather than blaming someone for it, have empathy with the lady. Let us place it in our mind that it can happen to everyone and remember we have responsibility towards our life partner.

In another case study I met a married lady who had just appeared in one paper and dropped from the course. To quote her: “My mother-in-law had different rules for me and my sister-in-law. Those gender–stereotyped rules blocked my academic trajectory.

Rules for me were that I should not move out from the home to work as my pseudo-religious oriented husband disliked it.  For my sister-in-law, who was less qualified than me, she was encouraged to apply for various posts and move out in search of a job.  

My in laws displayed dual behavior which was a potent tool for emotional abuse and driving me mad for taking some extreme step. When your life partner is the key abuser than even Gods feel helpless. Hypocrites are people who act sweet & your well-wishers in front of you but create differences in your absentia.  

Praising me in private and talking as if I am the best person, but as soon as others are around, using sarcasm and painful words for me. In presence of my parental relatives, telling me how my growth and happiness makes them happy, but then also highlighting my shortcomings in front of strangers at the same time, to break my spirit. 

Telling me in personal settings that they care about me and then making sure that I feel lonely, ignored or always treated secondary by people in social gatherings. Their erratic behavior causes constant confusion and you do not know how to react to their manipulations.

Their narcissistic attacks are so subtle and so silent that you cannot even react to them. I was always feeling like a double edged sword hanging on my head. There was so much pent up anger that I felt total bitterness all the time.

There was always unhealthy jealousy and competitiveness around me. My each move to join hearts was unreciprocated. Despite being post graduate, gold medalist with NET, my certificates became a fodder for bookworms. I was always treated like an outsider and still I could not complain due to fake sugar coated sweetness.

My BEd counselor made me see so many good things about myself that I started feeling so confident within me. He also counseled my husband. I would now hold myself together and be with people who mattered.”

To conclude when you label someone as being lazy, not social, careless, attention seeker, look within her eyes, she could be the victim of emotional abuse and needs support.

Remember if we save the honor of our life partner who is also somebody’s cherished daughter and defend her when others choose to be mute spectators, Allah will save us from the hell fire on the last day of judgment.

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Assistant Professor, Directorate of Distance Education , University of Kashmir.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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