Over a thousand women have so far benefited from self defence classes offered by feminist and women rights organisation, Sister Namibia, in a quest to fight gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.
One such individual, whose life has been changed by the self defence classes, is journalist Salimi Gerbhard, who joined the Sister Namibia initiative because of her risky job.
She said that through the training, women are taught to take control of threatening situations they may find themselves in.
“The world we live in is not so safe. One has to always be ready to know how to protect themselves,” Gerbhard said.
The shy 26-year-old believes that the training has given her confidence and has been a form of stress reliever, because apart from self defence, they also received some exercise tips which she has been utilising.
Statistics provided by Sister Namibia shows that one out of three women in the country has experienced, or will experience, GBV in their lifetime, while it is estimated that one out of five women is in an abusive relationship.
According to statistics released by the Namibian Police’s GBV division, about 50,000 crimes related to GBV were reported from 2014-2016, with the Khomas region described as the GBV ‘capital’.
In 2016 alone, statistics from the Namibian Police showed that more than 2,000 cases of gender-based violence were reported in the country. Social activists opine that the majority of GBV cases are not reported, making the actual number of domestic violence incidents unknown.
Sister Namibia Media Officer, Elsarien Katiti, who is also one of the trainers, said they teach participants how to stay safe and how to literally get away when someone surprise attacks, but they do not promote violence.
She said the sessions seek to empower girls by creating a sense of urgency, so that they can realise they can protect themselves.
According to Katiti, they have managed to reach out to 1,300 women since the inception of the training in 2015.
The training, which is free, is offered every two weeks and is open to everyone. Another young woman who has also benefited from the self defence class is 24-year-old Janike Mcleod, who joined after witnessing a very violent encounter between a husband and his wife.
According to Mcleod, who is in the legal profession, the woman approached her for help after she had decided to leave her abusive husband.
While the lady was at her office, the husband followed her and assaulted her before firing gun shots in the air to scare her into not going ahead with the divorce.
“I am always surrounded by violence through my work, so I know what women out there go through. It is sad, but it is also a reality that as women we are vulnerable and we are unable to defend ourselves. I am always around women who find themselves in life threatening situations where the woman is always the victim,” she said.
Mcleod said that the one-day training session has given her skills that have made her feel more confident and conscious of her surroundings, something that allows her to always be alert.
She said that her work is so demanding that she sometimes has to leave work late, which means she has to drive alone at night which may not be very safe.
“We were trained on how to escape if you have been grabbed from behind. There is a particular technique that they showed us which can actually allow you to break free,” she said.
One of the places where the classes are being offered in Windhoek is at the Krav Maga Academy, where both male and females are taking part in the lessons.
According to the founder and instructor at the academy, Marco Grunert, they teach extreme survival techniques.
He said the first line of defence that they teach is to avoid an attack in the first place by making yourself a hard target.
“Attackers usually are not looking for a challenge or fair fight; they are looking for an easy target,” he said.
Krav Maga is a fast and real technique for raw street fight and bare knuckles boxing, which according to Grunert, is more effective and physically demanding than Jijutsu.