People for Parity in collaboration with ‘Hope Worldwide’ held its first demo-workshop on ‘Self Defense and Safe Sharing For Women’ at Okhla Phase 3. I volunteered at this event meant for Govt Anganwadi Workers and Mother and Child Care Workers who were to further go on and train the residents of the communities under them.
I was expecting a group of tough skeptical women, already hardened by the nature of their work that involved official rounds, door to door visits and dealing with residents from some of the most impoverished and crime prone parts of the city. But we were greeted with grave curious faces as we entered the venue, a small courtyard of the neighborhood temple. I even noticed a woman or two with pens and papers poised to take notes to be used for further training. And yet as I moved to interact with them in the moments before the workshop, there were those women who questioned what is it that we could teach young helpless women fight off rapists murderers and other assailants.
But this was before the Self Defense Trainer, Arun Sharma, (martial arts expert/owner- Academy of Combative Arts), stepped up. The key to Self Defense, he explained, lay in staying alert and cautious enough to avoid getting into such situations and if needed, engaging in combat just to escape your assailant, not to win against him. As the self defense session proceeded, the mood lightened, the women were smiling, laughing and interacting actively with Arun. I sensed it was not just because of Arun’s exceptional training skills but also because they realized that its simpler and more effective than they had expected, that it was something they could do. Towards the end of the session, the women were wholeheartedly participating(the ones with pens had put them down), sharing and questioning Arun how the newly acquired self defense training tips could be adapted into their daily lives, from going to the local milk shop/vegetable markets, using public transport and even on their official rounds.
Aditya and I introduced the next session of safe sharing, a simple game which allowed individual participants to share simple and fun facts about themselves. Initially, only the outspoken ones spoke up. A few of them seemed confused as to the purpose of the game but the enthusiasm and adrenaline from the previous session carried on. It took a little prodding, and since it was all in good fun, the quiet, shy ones eventually spoke up. Aditya concluded the session, with a note on how such a session laid a good foundation for women to bond and form strong support groups in their communities, where they could come together, to share, to practice and propagate self defense and the reserved ones could find voice in times of need. That if one of their own members became a victim of a mishappening, she knew there were others she could turn to, others who could help her connect her with the right kind of help and get her life back together and move on.
At the end of the workshop a few women came up and asked when we were going to return, for they wanted to learn more, and few shared that they were going to share with their daughters and sisters and neighbours. The way I see it, if PfP could equip enough willing young women, with skills and ability to find strength from support groups within their communities, it could be a step towards eradicating violence against women.