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A self-defense class in Kenya is halting sexual harassment

CHANGE: Kenya is fighting gender-based violence by teaching both girls and boys how to respect and protect one another (Photo credit:

A SELF-defense program in Kenya is fighting gender-based violence by teaching both girls and boys how to respect and protect one another – and the initiative has already resulted in sexual assault rates being cut in half.

The IMpower training program is carried out through 2-hour sessions once per week across six weeks, and only costs $1.75 to attend. The program’s focus on training girls aged 10 to 19 has an astounding attendance record with over 12,000 girls being trained in the first two years. ]

Lessons range from physical self-defense, to the concepts of body integrity and consent, to the simple method of repeatedly shouting “NO” to shock would-be attackers and alert bystanders of assault.

The training also includes encouraging the participants to chant: “I am strong! I’ve got my spirit! I am beautiful! I can defend myself! I’m worth defending! You cannot hurt me!”

In addition, boys are taught how to discard their gender-based stereotypes and how to recognise and intervene in attempted sexual assaults. The boys have taken defending their peers to heart, with a large majority of their interventions successfully stopping attacks in their tracks.

According to Stanford Medicine News Centre, The IMpower program, which is the brainchild of the nonprofit, No Means No Worldwide, was founded in 2009 by Lee Paiva, who has distraught over the gender-based crimes in Nairobi.

Over 180,000 girls and boys completing their training to date and rates of sexual assault have fallen by half.

Speaking on the classes, Paiva said: “We were pretty stunned that the self-defense training was so effective.”

With such positive feedback, No Means No Worldwide are expanding and have exported their training to Malawi, replicating the successes from Kenya. They also have plans to start trainings in neighboring Uganda and create a center for further programs in the region.

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