Tue, 11 Apr 2000

Get-up-and-go with upcoming seminars on assertiveness

JAKARTA (JP): The man of the house is displeased with you. To punish you he discontinues your monthly allowance. What do you do? Unlike the traditional woman who has been coiling up for centuries in helplessness into the fetal position, and wishing that she was dead every time her dignity is assaulted by the patriarch, modern woman looks the mean problem straight in the eye and does something about it, like making sure, if she can, that she is not totally dependent upon a man for cash, for a start.

The idea is to get more and more women to be more assertive in order to improve the communication of half the world's population with their respective surroundings. Addressing the basics of assertive communication is Irene Walton, an experienced therapist and counselor with the International Community Activity Center (ICAC) at a workshop to be held here on April 13.

In her workshop Irene will dwell upon developing assertive skills in situations women often face in everyday life. For one and a half hours she will engage participants in talks and on-the-spot exercises that are designed to provide practice in responding assertively, which does not necessarily mean aggressively, to immediate circumstances. While defining both verbal and nonverbal aspects of assertive communication, the rule Irene insists, is always to stay calm.

For example, you have been rushing about all day. It is very hot and you don't have air-conditioning. You prepare a salad for dinner because you don't want to turn the oven on. Your husband comes home hungry and wants a hot meal. "What do you say?" is what participants will be asked to put down on paper at the workshop as an exercise in self-assertion.

Or, you have settled in for a quiet Sunday at home, the first in a long time. Your parents call and invite you over for the day. You don't want to go. What do you say?

It is an unfortunate world that today has to coax its womenfolk into saying how they feel, something that is a natural birthright of all human beings. This is because both cultures of the West and the East do not encourage women to talk about themselves or about their feelings. In turn, women remain confused about their rights and seldom give themselves the choice to say what is really on their mind.

The purpose of the workshop is to make women feel better about themselves, to get to know themselves by acknowledging their feelings and to provide them with the choice of saying either yes or no, depending upon how they are feeling in a particular situation.

The other exercise in self assertion is based on a Feeling Chart, with a list in alphabetical order of over 60 words identifying different kind of emotions which participants will have to choose from when in different situations.

They will also receive a Personal Bill of Rights, with 25 points stressing facts like, "I have the right to say 'no' to requests or demands I cannot meet" and "I have the right not to be responsible for the behavior, actions, feelings or problems of others".

Irene welcomes interested men to participate in the workshop as well as the purpose is not to release tips and tricks on how to dominate, intimidate or bully members of the opposite sex but how not to go through life blindly like our mothers perhaps did.

Irene also feels that it is to the advantage of men if they encourage women to speak their mind, for that will only improve communication with their wives, mothers, daughters and female colleagues.

ICAC is hosting Irene's workshop "Be Assertive!" as part of its ongoing seminars to observe International Women's Day. Apart from Irene, April 13 and 14 will see more than 10 speakers highlight other topics of interest to women from different walks of life at ICAC House on Jalan Bona Visata Raya, Lebak Bulus.

ICAC's executive director, Velvy Holden, will kick off the seminars on April 13 by looking at the role of the United Nations in the women's movement while a panel discussion on "A Perspective on Women's Issues and Challenges" will close the deliberations in the afternoon on April 14.

However, as not to restrict the seminars to just to discussions, the organizers have included professionals as guest speakers, who will give practical tips on how to face the multiple challenges facing women today. Lora Smith Ryan will advise on how to manage stress, Nugroho Supangat, managing partner of PT Dunamis Intermaster will help solve family problems based on Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Gail Chanpong will look at the educational and health uses of the Internet, while Setijati Sastrapradja, an expert with the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation will discuss the importance of creating awareness of nature conservation.

Susan McKenna, a child education expert will give tips on how mothers can better support children by focusing on their own organizational skills. Kathy Wilson, a counselor at the elementary campus of the Jakarta International School will help mothers to assist children in solving their own problems. This helps parents become managers and facilitators of their children, taking away the burden of making children comply, perform and conform all the time.

Former president of Soroptimist International Jakarta and executive director of a clinic Sulistyaningsih Latif will also help answer questions on how to manage home and family in yet another session, and for all those simply interested in listening to others speak there is a talk on Women and HIV/AIDS by Baby Jim Aditya. Juliah Ardie will speak about the status of women in Islamic culture.

Julia Suryakusuma, a well known activist and writer, will look at women in politics and Julie Marsaban will pose the question, "Did I make the right choice?" after looking back at all the choices available to women in the last 25 years.

All those interested in participating in the thought-provoking seminars can telephone ICAC at 75816710-14, fax 75816749 or e- mail at icac@cbn.net.id.

-- Mehru Jaffer