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Teaching Self-Defense to Empower Girls in Kenya

“85% of the harassment we face as girls can be stopped by voicing out loudly and saying NO effectively.” Nelly, Ujamaa Africa

Every year, Freely In Hope commemorates the International Day of the Girl that focuses on empowering girls and women to use their voices in their communities to speak against injustice. This year, we had the privilege to partner with Ujamaa Africa and Imarika Youth to empower girls in Kibera, Kenya to learn self defense skills. Self-defense trainings are proven to boost body confidence and decrease anxiety. Through this empowering training on International Day of the Girl, girls learned to get out of unsafe situations quickly, seek help, and speak out against sexual assault.

Watch the highlight reel on our Instagram page!

During the first session, the girls shared their values and expectations to establish common ground for the training. They learned about the forms of sexual violence, factors that contribute to sexual violence, and most importantly, ways that they can respond using their voices.

De-escalation skills

In order to understand how perpetrators intimidate victims through verbal and physical assault, the girls learned the attack progression scale which could move from a simple irritation to a life threatening situation. Perpetrators may start at any level on the scale and understanding the progress can help victims escape before violence escalates.

using the power of our voice

In addition, girls practiced ways they can use their voices such as yelling “No!” and naming the behavior to de-escalate. The facilitators taught girls of their essential body parts that can be used as weapons against perpetrators so that they can quickly escape. 

“I feel empowered and knowledgeable. Thank you for hosting this training! We need more of these sessions even in the future.” Velma, Freely in Hope scholar

our body's weapons

The last session on self defense provided girls with a practical demonstration on how to get away from perpetrators by attacking their most vulnerable body parts. The girls were given the opportunity to physically practice defending themselves from perpetrators by shouting “No!” at the top of their voices with the primary objective to flee.

“As young girls and women, we are constantly exposed to injustices in our communities, and most of us do not know how to respond to such injustices directed to us. Through this self defense training, I have learned that merely feeling uncomfortable around certain people is a body response to action. And most importantly, being self aware in our bodies is what’s most needed so that we can realize our strengths and worth. I feel more empowered both verbally and physically after the training!” Beryl, Freely in Hope Fellow

Self-defense training provides more than just physical safety, it provides the empowerment for girls to know that they have the right tools and resources to respond. Our self-defense course helps girls tap into their innate self-belief so that they know that their voice matters. At the end of the training, we provided each girl with a solar light to help girls feel safer and deter perpetrators at night, pads and hygiene products keep girls safe in school, and whistles call for help in unsafe situations. Special thanks to our donors and organizational partners, Ujamaa Africa and Imarika Youth, for training girls in Kibera on lifesaving self-defense skills!

Freely in Hope is creating a safe environment to make every girl feel safe enough to open up about harassment or abuse. Instead of responding with shame and guilt, enforced by cultural beliefs, we hope girls would know that they have the power to change systems. To help girls lead this change, donate today!

Beryl Apiyo

Freely in Hope Fellow
Aspiring Journalist

Beryl Apiyo is a Freely in Hope fellow currently studying Communications and Public Relations at Daystar University. Born and raised in the Nyanza part of Kenya, Beryl leads with compassion, selflessness, hope, appreciation, and determination. As an inspiring journalist, she is passionate about using her voice to bring solutions to people who need resources. Through empowerment programs at Freely in Hope, she uses her strength to educate others by speaking up until there is no form of sexual violence against women and children. She believes the world must realize and appreciate the worthiness of women which is why she is passionate about fighting for the rights of women at Freely in Hope!

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