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SheFighter – Fighting Harassment at the Middle East’s First Women’s Self-Defence Studio

shefighter jordan womens self defense center
Photo: SheFighter on FaceBook


SheFighter – Fighting Harassment at the Middle East’s First Women’s Self-Defence Studio

Lina Khalifeh, from Amman, Jordan, first started practicing taekwondo at just 5 years old.

To date, she’s also practiced or competed at kung fu, boxing, and kickboxing.

20 gold medals and 3 international titles sit proudly on her résumé.

If the situation arose, she would most likely kick your ass.

If she came at me, I’d be out cold in seconds flat. Probably through fear alone.

And yet, despite all the knowledge, skills, and prowess picked up, Lina still suffered as a female growing up in the Middle East.

As she explained in an interview with The Jordan Times, “Throughout my childhood, I have been harassed and bullied, and I always wondered ‘why do we have to accept this violence, just because we are women?’”

And so, in 2010, Lina decided to do something about it.

The catalyst was more abuse, although on this occasion it wasn’t being directed towards the martial art expert.

Instead, it was one of her friends from university, who was suffering at the hands of her own male relatives.

It gave Lina the idea for a women-only self-defense center.

And from this idea, which started out with Lina working with just 2 clients in the basement of her own building in Amman, SheFighter was born.

The basement served as HQ for 2 further years as Lina sought to build the company via an intensive and extensive promotional campaign.

“I went everywhere,” said Lina. “I asked every school in Jordan if I could come and give their female students conferences for free.”

Some of the replies demonstrated a cultural obstacle Lina and SheFighter would have to overcome, with certain schools being adamant that “girls are not interested in that sort of thing.”

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Having been raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Lina grew up with the belief that “when you want something, and if you have the positive energy for it, you will always reach your goal.”

In 2012, after 2 years of deploying that positive energy, the first official SheFighter studio was established, again in Amman.

In 2014, the current SheFighter offices opened. The space, which is again located in the Jordanian capital, is 3 times bigger than the first.

It has to be big, as it currently has 5000 members – aged between 4 to 75 years old – and 15 trainers.

However, if the first women-only self-defense center in the Middle East was to help as many people as possible, it would have to grow even larger.

It would have to expand out of Amman, and even out of Jordan.

That’s exactly what happened, as the SheFighter brand now trains women across Jordan and beyond, in nearby Egypt and Palestine.

Some classes are for-profit, while others are given voluntarily to those in the most need, including females in refugee camps.

Highlighting the need for this work was a 2012 survey funded by the Jordanian government. It found that 34% of married women aged between 15 and 49 had experienced physical violence at least once in the prior 12 months.

While it may be the physical training that makes the best SheFighter Instagram posts, they also provide psychological training workshops.

Batoul Jaikat, a SheFighter trainer, explained that she has “seen a huge confidence boost in the women who attend the workshops.”

SheFighter attendee Yara Al Zu’bi, who is just 15 years old, agreed, saying, “this helped me stand up for myself and speak my mind in particular situations.”

Lina’s amazing achievements in building SheFighter from nothing and empowering thousands of women across the Middle East have been recognized before, by people just a little more famous than me.

Emma Watson spoke with Lina about challenging gender stereotypes at a One Young World event in Ottawa, Canada, and President Obama singled her out for praise after inviting her to the White House.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Lina’s future plans are said to include opening an even bigger studio to help more women, continuing to spread the message globally, and to finish writing a book on entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.

Underlying all of these ambitions is the continuation of doing what SheFighter has always done so brilliantly and so importantly.

As communicated by the website’s tagline, that is Empowering Women Through Self-Defense.

via The Jordan Times

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