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Two Women’s Workshops in Russia

In December 2017 I led two women’s workshops in Russia—one for non-RC women and one for RC women in Anna Skvortsova’s Region.

Anna Skvortsova is the Regional Reference Person for Russia. She and I have developed a close and important relationship over the years. Both of us have worked at bringing the tools of RC to the wide world.

THE WORKSHOP FOR WOMEN ACTIVISTS

As a social activist, Anna has consistently gathered a group of women (a women’s club) in which the women share experiences and have a space to discuss difficult matters. The women are from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work on human rights, with unions, in shelters for battered women, with family workers, and with women formerly engaged in politics.

Anna asked me to lead a two-day women’s workshop for these women and introduce RC tools. She and I planned it together. The women are all professionals and oriented toward supporting and helping others and not putting attention to themselves. So after a short introduction to RC, I spent most of the time counseling each of the twelve women in the group on the question, “How has it been for you to grow up as a girl and be a woman?”

In between the turns, the women asked questions about the process and I explained what I was doing, so the sessions also became a communication about RC theory and methods.

To the surprise of many, there was discharge (laughing and also crying and shaking) and the women told things about their lives that they had not shared before. I stayed focused on good reality and being light, in particular when things were heavy. Of course we addressed sexism and male domination. And I explained that they are hurtful to both women and men and that men are natural allies for women. I also tried to explain the difference between taking care of men and being in charge of our relationships with men—about standing up for ourselves while also being allies to and counseling men.

All the sessions brought more closeness, safety, and connection among the women, and they wanted to continue to have sessions in the future.

I loved being with this group of women. They are strong, powerful, and determined to change bad conditions and not just for themselves.

THE WORKSHOP FOR RC WOMEN

After the two days with the women activists, I led a one-day RC women’s workshop in Anna’s Region. Most of the women were from Saint Petersburg. There were also some from Moscow, and Ufa in Bashkiria. We focused on leadership and how we as females need each other across all the divisions (based on class, sexual preference, ethnicity, age, and so on) imposed from outside.

I often struggle to prepare for a workshop because so much of what I do is shaped by the participants and where they are at. I read a lot of articles, review my notes from workshops, and have a rough schedule in my head, but how I present theory, what specifics I teach, and how I counsel are always based on the information I collect from the participants. So I wanted to work with as many women as possible in front of the group. Also, witnessing another woman’s struggle with sexism and internalized sexism seems to bring women closer.

As a woman from a Western country, I have many unaware assumptions about women living under different conditions. The Western perspective is pervasive, so I started with a question before choosing whom to work with. I asked, “How have you been affected by the sex industries?” “What is it like to be a young adult woman?” and other questions that I knew were relevant for at least some of the women.

One of the demonstrations was with a young adult woman. She cried hard when I said I would not accept the oppression of young adult women. It was a new experience for her to have an old woman stand by her side and fight with her against the oppression. There were also other examples of women being allies to women whose oppression was different from their own. “Female first” is a biological fact that unites us across sexual preference, race and skin colour, class, age, looks, and so on.

Many of us who have been using RC for a long time can tend to settle for doing only a little better than before. I wanted us to make the link between our early defeats and where we have settled today so that we would fight hard and triumphantly for our lives. I, and it seems others, can feel blamed or reproached if a counselor has a suggestion that implies that we have not done the work well enough. There is a subtle balance between challenging the client and rocking the boat of comfort, and letting the client know that we are unconditionally with her and on her side.

We had a great day. We managed to come closer, work hard, notice love and connection where we hadn’t noticed it before, and come out with strengthened hope for what we wanted.

SEEING HOW MUCH WE HAVE IN COMMON

I feel privileged to know women from other parts of the world. It strengthens my understanding of how much we have in common in humanness. I see the different conditions we live under and yet how much we share the same desire to build together a world free of any oppression or separation.

Thank you to Anna and to the Russian and Bashkir women.

Susanne Langer

Regional Reference Person for Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion lists for leaders of women and for leaders of wide world change

(Present Time 191, April 2018)


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00