Over the past week Show You Care, a department of Sri Lanka Unites, held a series of self-defense workshops to provide young women with the skills necessary to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Show You Care, from its inception in 2013, has aimed to eliminate harassment of women in public spaces.
The ongoing campaign has a two-pronged approach. One is to encourage young men to be part of the solution to this pervasive struggle that thousands of women face on a daily basis. The other is to equip young women with the tools and skills necessary to face this challenge. Bus campaigns and training workshops have been implemented with the hopes of getting closer to a reality where women will feel safe and respected in public spaces. Recently the campaign also launched a Facebook Bot, which is connected to its Facebook page ‘Show’. The Bot, when contacted during an incident of harassment, will take the woman through a series of automated questions in order to document the incident.
An emergency helpline to the official help desk is also provided in case of imminent danger. The purpose of the Bot is to collect as much data as possible on incidents of harassment in order to emphasize the widespread nature of the issue, analyze and highlight bus routes and areas with high rates of harassment and use this data to pressure authorities and leaders into taking immediate action.
As part of empowering women with necessary tools and skills, Show You Care held multiple workshops conducted by Kelly Kelly, who is trained in boxing and Jujitsu. Kelly travels to different countries to share her own experiences of harassment and abuse that led to her training in self-defense and her passion to train other young women on these skills and techniques.
“Self-defense is not just physical- it is hugely vocal, and in fact, learning to use our voices and speak up for ourselves is the most important thing that I teach. The point of learning self-defense is not to cause harm to someone else, or even to embarrass them. When we learn how to use our voices when we are feeling violated or harassed, we are effectively communicating to the person harming us that our bodies are not for another person's pleasure”
- Kelly Kelly
The workshops were held in Matara, Mullaitivu, Monaragala, and Colombo. Over 80 young girls and women were trained. Every one of them had faced some kind of harassment during their lifetime or face continued harassment, especially in public spaces. Kelly took these young women through a series of exercises both physical and vocal in order to equip themselves with basic techniques to face an incident of harassment or assault. They were asked to make the commitment that each of them would train 5-10 other young women they knew. The goal is that as many young girls and women will be able to get the benefit of this training even if they were not able to be part of the workshop.
Some takeaways from the workshops held:
Why should women learn self-defense?
- We can never be sure who we will encounter and what dangerous places we may find ourselves in
- It can help stop someone’s violent advances against you
- It sends a very clear message that what they are doing will not be tolerated
- Even if you are not as strong as your attacker you are still able to overpower them
- It instills confidence
“Learning how to physically defend yourself is not about engaging in a fight or retaliating in like manner, but it is about applying a technique that not only stops what they are doing, but it sends a very clear message that what they are doing will not be tolerated, and most importantly it will give you the space that you need to get away from this person”
– Kelly Kelly
Some key takeaways from the workshop
- Always vocalize your disapproval of any unwanted advances on you
- Remember to look them in the eye
- Always conduct yourself with confidence and good posture. Perpetrators often look for those who appear timid or vulnerable
- Trust your gut instinct – if you think you are being followed, if you feel unsafe immediately go to a crowded place or a well-lit shop or call for help
- Even though it is hard not, try to be calm when cornered or overpowered by someone. You are much likelier to think better if you are calm
- Save your energy, try not struggle too hard. The more energy you lose, the easier it is for them to overpower you.
Self-defense is about technique. A few techniques can often trump brute strength
You have to practice these techniques often in order to create muscle memory