Girls speak up and fight back for a safer world

Girls in Nepal are energized with self-defense training

“Every girl should know that everyone deserves respect,” said Monika Wod, who teaches girls to defend themselves in Kailali, Nepal. Monika has trained more than 450 girls as a volunteer with Saksham Chhori—”Empowered Daughters”—a training that aims to equip girls with self-defense skills. The self-defense sessions brought students out of classrooms and into courtyards and fields where they practiced and gained confidence physically, verbally and psychologically. The girls performed drills by striking and guarding, exercised analytical skills like assessing their surroundings, and learned how to diffuse dangerous situations. The training, which began as a partnership between Mercy Corps and local organizations, was founded to support girls in Nepal who may face gender-based violence like harassment and bullying. The program initially trained 88 facilitators from many ethnic backgrounds in order to reach as many girls as possible. Since training is delivered in local languages, the program can be culturally-specific for each community in remote areas of Nepal. Graduates of the training are often so eager to share what they’ve learned that they go on to lead their own classes, reaching more than 10,000 girls across Nepal. The self-defense classes are part of a larger effort by Mercy Corps who worked with local organizations, schools and government to write up safeguarding policies, carry out awareness campaigns and create systems for handling complaints. Boys and parents took part in discussions about gender-based violence, and how they could be a part of the solution. Although there are resources for those to speak out against violence, it can be a big challenge due to cultural norms that may prioritize keeping up appearances and not sharing family business. But the reluctance to speak out is beginning to shift. The program trains facilitators to maintain girls’ confidentiality around sensitive issues while providing referral services so the girls can receive support in cases of abuse and violence. The program recognizes that building the girls’ self-esteem goes a long way to helping them stand up for themselves both physically and verbally. Willingness to speak up has a ripple effect within families and communities. One participant’s mother summed up the difference she saw in her daughter after the training: “I have never seen my daughter explaining things to us. She shared about the discriminatory behaviors she faced at her school and lifetime for the first time. I was really shocked to hear this but her next words took my heart. She said, “If you face violence, do not keep quiet.”

Charity Name
Mercy Corps
Photo Credit
Mercy Corps