'You Have a Chance' offers self-defense class to female community leaders

Christien van den Brink
“Listen up everyone; we are first going to do some stretching exercises!” The 21- year old self-defense teacher Karmel explains to a group of 30 middle-aged women, who came to the Amal Association in Baqaa refugee camp to attend a self-defence session today. “Ladies, let’s get ready to do the first exercise.” Karmel stands in front of everybody and shows the first position. It is hot in the upstairs room of the center and the women wear many layers of clothes. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to get the exercise right.
 
The self-defense class is part of 'You Have a Chance', a two-year ARDD project funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Jordan. The program aims to empower women in Aqaba and Baqaa legally, socially and economically, by building their confidence; but also by providing one-off cash grants and offering free legal counsel and awareness sessions as well as psychosocial support.
 
Women in Baqaa face many challenges in their daily lives, a participant, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains. “I was running my own company, which was registered on my father’s name. But when my father died, my husband’s family took over the business and there was nothing I could do about it. We often feel too weak or too ashamed to seek legal or psychosocial advice. Or we lack the financial means. There really is a need for women in our community to become more empowered,” she adds.
 
“Through the self-defense classes we want to give women the tools to build their self-confidence. We expect that the confidence that we develop during these trainings has a positive spill-over effect to other parts of the participant’s lives,” project officer Najd explains.
 
Trainer Karmel has been giving self-defense classes for six years now, in several locations in Irbid. “I really like to encourage women and girls to explore new boundaries and to see their confidence grow as we go along,” she explains after the training.
 
The 53-year old Amal Hassan Abu Hattab is one of the participants in the training. She is also the president of the Amal Association, a community based organization that provides free training and health services to women. “I think the self-defence course is a great initiative. The participants have been inspired today and will now introduce the courses within the associations they work in,” Amal tells during a well-deserved break. “Self-defense is especially relevant for young girls in our community, who might have already been a victim of gender-based violence, either on the street, at school, or even at home. Through our networks, we will be able to put this high on the agenda,” she tells.  
 
Through its programs, ARDD seeks to reinforce these networks. The 30 women, who are all leaders within their community, are carefully selected by ARDD to attend today’s session. During three days, the women will receive different trainings on topics that they have chosen themselves, ranging from Gender Based Violence, Stress Management, Community Facilitation and Mobilization, Women’s Rights in Personal Status Law and International Treaties and Civic Engagement. ARDD, in many of its projects sets up community support network groups with the aim to build stronger communities. “Many of these women work for a community based organization in Baqaa. By building the capacity of community support network groups such as this one, we believe we can really make a change within the community,” Najd says.

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