I learned to feel strong inside my body
Yesterday I got back after spending six day in Lesvos, Greece, teaching Empowering Self Defense to refugees from camps on the island.
During those days I taught three full ESD coursed and one introduction to self-defense class. The participants were refugees from different countries, as well as foreign and local volunteers and local women.
I’d like to share some amazing numbers with you:
All in all, the ESD message was passed to 70 women, coming from 16 different countries, in 7 different languages.
The women laughed, learned to yell, move their body, put up verbal barriers, say NO, walk in a safe and alert way, trust themselves and their body and defend themselves with different ESD tools.
The first group was for Somalian women. I spoke English, which was translated into Arabic by an Iraqi translator, then to two different Somalian dialects by women from the group. In addition, there were also two Greek women, one translating for the other; one Australian and one American.
The second group was for Afghani girls, age 14 and up. The translator was a 16-year-old Afghani girl who learned her perfect English during her one year stay in Moria. There was also an African French-speaking woman who had her own French translator, as well as two Spanish and one Swiss volunteers.
The third group was mixed. A group of young Arabic speaking girls, I think from Syria, with the Iraqi translator, and their Greek care-taker; And a group of Africans from Kongo, Cameron, Guinea, and South-Sudan, speaking English or French, with a different French translator. Also, in this group the CEO of Starfish organization who was the one responsible for me being there, with her Greek daughter,
The forth group was some more Afghani girls residing in Moria’s “Safe zone”, where unaccompanied minors live.
I want to share some of the feedback I got from the course’s participants:
"My body can do things I didn’t know it can do”
“I learned that in any situation I should be careful, but not afraid”
"I learned to feel strong inside my body”
"I learned I can say NO without giving excuses”
“The course made me happy, and I learned to be strong and safe”
"I learned to control myself and defend myself in a bad situation”
"we learned to solve problems with talking, not with our hands”
" I learned there is a solution. If you are strong and assertive, there is a solution”
"I can fight for myself and be strong”
"I learned about the way we see women. I learned we have the right to defend ourselves and not be under control”
"To say no to someone, I like without hurting them. To say no to friends”
"We are strong, we can think and do without someone telling us what to do”
"I didn’t know I can defend myself from someone struggling me from the back, and it is important for me to know that”
"I learned that we don’t need force in order to protect ourselves if we know the right movements”/
And one story:
One Afghani girl told us:” I have a good friend that’s been courting me for the last few months. I’m not interested and I tried to wiggle out of it with excuses.
After the class, I went to him and said: ‘look, I like you, and there is a girl for you somewhere, But this girl is not me’.
Then she added with a smile: ‘He accepted what I said so simply that I thought it was silly of me to try and wriggle myself out of this all those months’”.
I’ve has a moving experience, I’m sure it will take some time for me to digest all the experience and people I’ve met. It was amazing to meet the human spirit and the ability of people to be joyous after all the horrors they’ve been through; the will of people t help and give, sometimes while paying a heavy personal price; The ability of people who were torn from their homelands and are now, more or less, living through hell, to improve the leaving condition and help other people in their state.
I met the human evil in its worst, and the human goodness in its best.
I’d like to thank the women that made this happen: Melinda McRostie of Starfish organization in Lesvos, and Yudit Sidikman of ESD Global. Without their support and vision, it would not have happened.