The first few days of orientation would include an overview of Women’s Studies and an introduction to some of the salient concepts/terms have been used during the course. This had been followed by sessions/classes on specific reading/writing skills; research methodologies; and utilisation of libraries/archives.
The 12 week course itself would offered classes/seminars on different areas of Women’s Studies, where different teaching strategies derived from feminist pedagogy had been employed to facilitate learning. Feminist pedagogies stressed an interactive mode of learning, whereby student engagement with course material was encouraged through connections with their own life experiences and perspectives. Faculty would delivered lectures when deemed essential. Classroom discussions had been supplemented by substantial reading and writing assignments. Written assignments for each module had been graded. Participants would also been assessed for their contribution to class discussion.
Several of the weekly modules would draw upon visiting faculty (international and national). Additional activities may been structured within each module, for instance, Media would include evening cultural activities such as theatre, dance performances/classes, slide shows, films (popular and alternative) as part of the course; History/Herstory would entail visiting the museum/archives; historical sites; Legal theory might include visiting the Lahore High Courts/Women’s Legal Aid Centres; and so on.
The last two to three weeks of the Certificate Course were for all participants to complete an essay-type assignment requiring synthesis and integration of different course concepts and materials. Participants could been assigned one long essay, or several short essays. These assignments had been developed by faculty in the light of their teaching experience with the participants. Assignments had been assessed by faculty for content and presentation of ideas. Final grades had been based on these essays as well as performance in the earlier weeks of the course.
This course was unique not merely for its modular content, but the whole course was structured so as to perpetuate an ideology and sense of purpose and being. The living quarters for the students had also been structured in such a way have been in line with the methodology. It had been constructed deliberately to look like a house, instead of a typical hostel. In-built into the methodology was the concept of ‘sisterhood’ with the building designed to enhance integration among the students. At the same time, however, the concept of ‘women’ s space’ and ‘non-hierarchical’ feminist methodology was also kept in mind, the center therefore, did not had any full time warden. A conscious effort was made to subside and gradually eliminate any class, race, ethnic or religious barriers that the students might had. For this purpose, the students were required to clean their own rooms, maintained common seating areas, like the T.V room, and did their own laundry and dished washing. The meal timings were fixed to ensure that the students gathered in the central dining area to met at least thrice a day outside of the seminar room.
The methodology was aimed at inculcating socialist feminism into the students in such away that it became part of their life. It was a process of deep analysis of one’s self and the surroundings: processes of deconstruction of both, for only then could one deconstructs patriarchy and class. Self-reflexivity was therefore, an important ingredient of any feminist endeavor and this course was no different. Throughout the course, assignments and general discussions (in and outside the classroom) were aimed at the ‘self’. The last assignment, which was the major part of the overall grade, was in fact on self-reflexivity. As the aimed of the course was to brought theory and action together, and come up with a well-informed activist.
The consistency in methodology was considered while decorating, even. So, the décor was actually done while keeping in mind ‘women’s creativity’. The T.V room and the dining room had a mural, painted by lay women in a workshop at ASR. The women were just told to draw, no size, pattern or shape was specified as such and their raw creativity flowed onto the mural which now graces the walls of that room. The rugs in the center were also woven by women. In fact these were done by Central Asian women and not as articles of sale but, as part of their daughter’s dowry. ‘Women’s creativity’ was lauded in other ways in the décor also. The staircase up to the seminar room had photographs of prolific women from the performing arts in Pakistan. Another methodological issue in consideration was the consistency between theory and action. Not only the whole décor but also the various gadgets and appliances (electric kettle, air conditioners, furniture etc) of the center was done with indigenously produced and if not produced at least assembled in Pakistan. This practice then, did not contradict what was being preached in the module on Political economy.