Violence against women is a global public health issue which becomes a threat to life during emergencies. And that is exactly what happened last year. The lockdown during COVID provided more opportunities for perpetrators of domestic violence and India saw a multifold increase in violence against women whether physical, emotional, financial, sexual or verbal. Caught in small physical spaces 24/7, with little or no respite from a downslide in finances, illnesses and an ecosystem of frustration and piling up anger and despair, women and children faced the direct brunt.
At Safecity, we aim to make cities safer by encouraging equal access to public spaces for everyone, especially women, through crowdsourced data and technology. In our aim to facilitate a safer world for women and girls so that they can live up to their full potential, it was imperative that we responded to the emergency related to GBV during the pandemic.
We realised that it was impossible to reach out to every victim/survivor and so we worked on creating a safe space where they could join in, share their experiences, find support whilst learning from others on what solutions they could take back to their lives. Being a counsellor and yoga acharya, I used my experience to create a two hours guided/facilitated safe space for all who needed to be heard and supported. Thus SafeCircle was born.
SafeCircle is a safe listening circle for survivors of violence and abuse to find support. The circle starts with guided meditation, voicing predominant emotions and then a session of reflection on questions that surface during the introductions. We end with every member deciding for themselves smaller goals on self care and specific areas of concern to attend to.
Through these listening circles, survivors have found a community of support, where they can share strategies to address and prevent the violence and offer solidarity to peers. Since May 2020 we have been providing consistent psychosocial support to over 25 survivors. The process is therapeutic for many and we have seen a significant change in the lives of all our members.
Here are a few testimonials:
“Without any doubt, SafeCircle brings out renewed hope and faith continuously for me. I would like to credit each one on this circular table for their maturity, strength through their own experiences and most importantly their ability to extend support and compassion to the other. This space is made complete with smiles, laughter and this group’s ability to refocus on the positive. Many solutions come through with discussions and dealing with different levels of varied emotions. The name signifies what this space is all about..it’s safe and it’s a circle where everyone’s presence is balanced and equitable.”
– Anonymous 1
“I have been a part of SafeCircle for over a year now. I remember my adverse experiences left me feeling overwhelmed and that is exhausting. Being part of SafeCircle has given me a space to share my experiences, being heard and listening to others has helped to bring comfort and clarity. I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful network of support that has been and continues to be a great anchor in my life. And another bonus – friendship! Thank you Supreet for volunteering your precious time to facilitate the circle and to be there for us week after week.”
– Anonymous 2
“I became a part of this great safe space of undeniably strong people just when I needed the ‘nurturing and nourishing’ of my spirit.”
– Anonymous 3
In keeping with the high demand for safe spaces for victims of trauma and violence, we decided to train eligible interested people to be facilitators for SafeCircle in their communities.
From 19th April to 10th May 2021 we hosted the first SafeCircle Facilitator’s Training Program in partnership with the German Federal Foreign Office’s Global Diplomacy Lab. We had 15 participants attend the training program and we were thrilled to certify 13 facilitators. The four week program was conducted in English and Hindi and all trainees were provided with a SafeCircle Facilitator’s Handbook to ensure they maintain the authenticity and impact of their sessions. These facilitators have since been conducting SafeCircles in their communities in English and Hindi.
Here are a few testimonials:
“I have been associated with Safecity for the last two years and interacting and talking about the experiences of the people of the society is an important part of our work. SafeCircle is one of our Programs in which people who emerged from violence join and interact among themselves through dialogue and support each other. I recently took the training to join the SafeCircle Program as the Program Facilitator where I got an opportunity to be trained by my colleague Ms. Supreet who is also the CEO of Safecity. There are many things that have to be kept in mind while interacting with women victims of violence. It is important to respect and understand their feelings. We have to be very conscious while responding to these women victims. I learned and understood about all these things in SafeCircle Facilitator Training. I also realized the importance of my own mental health as a facilitator of the SafeCircle Program which makes it important to take care of our own mental health which is often ignored by us. We discussed self care tips and talked about our own methods of self care which made me realize that even the smallest thing that makes us feel happy can become a part of our self care. I have organized two sessions of SafeCircle Program so far as a facilitator and I really enjoyed both the sessions as I got an opportunity to learn and understand a lot of new things while interacting and connecting with new people. Platforms like SafeCircle are a great medium for people who have fought the battle of violence and emerged out of it to express and share their views about incidences that they might not have shared with anyone else. This platform has provided these people with an opportunity to take time out for themselves, to take care of themselves, to feel like themselves, to connect with people who share same experiences and support each other. The intent of the initiative of the SafeCircle Program is to help these people to move towards violence free and stress free life.”
– Jyoti Goyal
“कार्यशालां में समिलीत हो कें बहूत ही बढ़िया लगा , बहोत सारी बाते समजनेमे आसानी रही। आपका बात करने का तरीका, प्रश्न कैसे पूछे, सबको बात करने में कैसे प्रोत्साहित करे यह बाते यह समझने और सीखने मिला इसलिए आपका और आपकी पूरी टीम का बहुत बहुत धन्यवाद।“
– Rahul Kusurkar
“SafeCircle Facilitators Course was a beautiful journey in itself. I met so many amazing people. I acquired a lot of insight into abilities I’ve used my entire life but only seldom implemented or practiced. I’ve grown as a person as a result of the course. Overall, this course helped me recognize the importance of coming together and sharing, sparking a positive spark in me. Supreet Ma’am, Elsa Ma’am, and Tanya Ma’am were all really helpful and inspirational to me. I’d like to express my gratitude for Supreet Ma’am’s ability to relate the examples and real-life problems in such a way that I was able to dive deep into practicalities.”
– Anna Anandita
“I wish to thank you profoundly for conducting the training on SafeCircle Facilitators Course. Needless to say, it has been very well received from you Supreet. SafeCircle is a very closed circle where we can share everything without any hesitation and no one is going to judge you and not going to share your story anywhere. The start of the session with Supreet’s deep breathing and meditation made it one of the best learning experiences I had. I am satisfied with the training and training faculty. It was a well designed course with practical orientation.”
– Anima Tiwari