Women's Path of Struggle


Newletter Jan - Apr 2002

Women and young girls continue to be subjected to violence in many forms - molestation or so-called ‘eve-teasing’, rape, sexual harassment on the roads, buses, at the workplace and even in the home.

Campaigns against violence address the structural reasons for violence against women in a male-dominated society, while legal amendments initiated by women’s groups have attempted to change the anti-women biases in law and the judiciary. Empowering initiatives that enhance personal-safety skills also play a significant role, and can make a difference in individual women’s lives.

Most women instinctively tune in to danger: some freeze with fear and embarrassment, others try to find a way out of the situation. Self-defence training is an important skill that young women can learn to deal with situations of potential threat. Feminist self-defence, or Wenlido, which translates as ‘Women’s Path of Strength’ aims to help women to connect with their strength, overturning centuries of conditioning which convinces women that they are the ‘weaker sex’. As much as techniques of physical self-defence, Wenlido training involves the evolution of a woman’s self-image into that ofa strong, capable individual who controls her own life.

A series of Wenlido workshops were organised by Saheli in Delhi and Lucknow over January to December, The basic training, which took place over two full days, included sessions on verbal self-defence, releases from holds, applying counter-attacks and using body weapons (fist, knife hand, elbows and knees), instructions and workout with practical mental, verbal and physical techniques to deal with and counter various levels of violence ranging from harassment on the roads and buses to knotty situations within the home and among family members. Techniques included using humour and verbal skills to paralysing kicks, depending upon the situation.

In addition the programme included information and discussion on personal safety issues, applying awareness and avoidance; using assertiveness effectively; women, self-defence and the law; and sexual assault and family violence.

Verbal Self Defense: Includes applying assertive verbal skills; obtaining assistance; using negotiation; using humour; reversing the question; using repetition; changing the script.

Releases from Holds: Includes methods to release choking holds, front and back; a variety ofarm and shoulder holds; holds that involve pushing or pulling; various body holds,

Applying Counter Attacks and Body Weapons: Includes front snap, back and crescent kicks; stomp; up, back, reinforced elbows; dragon fist; hammer fist; back knuckle fist; knife hand; volley and serve defenses; striking cushions to build accuracy; multiple attackers/techniques and combinations.

Deflecting Blows: Includes deflecting when the blow is above hand level; deflecting when the blow is below hand level; deflecting to the side and to the back.

Defenses against Weapons: Includes the first three withdrawal tactics; kicks to incapacitate; direct/counter-attack combinations.

The workshops organised in Delhi and Lucknow drew an enthusiastic response. The Basic Wenlido Self-defence Program was taught by Gitta Ridder, an instructor from Women Educating in Self Defense Training, Vancouver, Canada (WEST). We conducted workshops in Miranda House College for Women, Kirorimal College, Satyavati College, Lady Sri Ram College and the National Institute of Immunology, One workshop was also held for activists from women’s groups. In Lucknow, workshops were held for university students and women’s groups.

Along with campaigning against violence, we also feel that some practical steps are immensely useful. We are hoping that a Wenlido instructor’s training will take place soon in order to sustain the work of feminist self-defence.