India Invests In Its Future By Investing In Its Girls

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Katherine White
One with Heart Program Coordinator

We could learn something from how India is tackling the problem of violence against women and girls. Schools in New Delhi have dedicated time and resources to teaching self-defense to girls, 100 girls at a time. This initiative is changing the way girls perceive themselves and is changing their future.

For the past eight years female officers from the New Delhi police force have offered a free 10-day course to girls in the city’s public schools and universities. They also teach summer and winter camps for women and girls and offer a lawyer-led course for boys that teaches them how to treat women with respect and help women who are in trouble.

Girls learn the power of their voice. They learn to punch and kick in response to realistic scenarios in which they could be grabbed. They learn to do what was previously unthinkable: to stand up for themselves.

Self-defense training transforms the way we perceive ourselves. For that reason, it can be uncomfortable at first. It challenges the traditional norms that say we must be nice and accommodating at all times, and reconnects us with our inborn, primal instinct to survive. Often for the first-time girls and women see options and gain the skills and confidence to fight back.

In India they call this “striking with anger.” We call it mindset. Mindset is the complete and total commitment to do whatever it takes to survive.  It is a mind shift from seeing ourselves as vulnerable, to seeing an attacker’s vulnerabilities. The internal dialogue: “you have picked the wrong person, and you are the one who is going to get hurt.” Developing this mindset requires we ask ourselves the tough question: “what am I willing to do to defend myself?”

Once we answer that question and make the commitment, we are less likely to be targeted and, if we are targeted, we are more likely to survive. This transformation in our thinking, along with information and skills, changes everything. It gives us the courage to fight back, to speak up on our own behalf, and to seek justice for ourselves and others.

As one girl in India said: “At this time girls aren’t safe. Men treat us like we aren’t human.” Self-defense training is giving her the confidence to change that. One with Heart has the experience, dedication and passion to support Portland in following India’s lead in offering training to all girls in our schools and universities. A small amount of training can make a big difference. It is an investment in a safer, more just future for everyone.

ENDNOTES:

Maria Abi-Habib. "'Men Treat Us Like We Aren't Human'. Indian Girls Learn to Fight Back."
NY Times, April 16th, 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/world/asia/india-girls-self-defense.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Katherine White