Survivors of abuse empowered through self-defense lessons

Raisa Serafica

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Survivors of abuse empowered through self-defense lessons
More than 70 girls from Marillac Hills, a DSWD shelter for abused women and children, and Barangay Old Balara learn basic self defense

MANILA, Philippines – If there’s one thing the viral #MeToo social media campaign did, it gave people a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment.

With this in mind, the Rotary Club of Metro Aurora saw the need to help women and children learn to protect and defend themselves in dangerous situations. This is how the “Superwomen: Power Against Violence” project, a self-defense clinic, started.

Empowerment of women

In partnership with Japanese Karate Association Philippines (Camp Crame)​, 40 girls in Marillac Hills, a DSWD shelter for abused women and children in Alabang, and 31 girls in Barangay Old Balara, Quezon City were taught basic self defense moves in a series of workshops that spanned the months of July to September.

Instructors from the Japanese Karate Association conducted a two-hour workshop on basic self-defense, based on various dangerous situationers where women may find themselves in.

In addition to this, Dra. Bernadette Madrid of Child Protection Unit from the Philippine General Hospital gave a talk on how to determine abuse and where to seek help.

“I believe that education plays a big part in the empowerment of women,” Mildred Fragante from the Rotary Club of Metro Aurora said. 

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT. The Japanese Karate Association conducts a 2-hour workshop on basic self defense. Photo courtesy of Mildred Fragante


“My team and I decided to volunteer because we want to share our knowledge to others especially to women and children who are perceived to have weak physical features. They are mostly targets of physical and any forms of abuse. We want to share the benefits of how karate can be useful in situations when they face danger and violence,” Naomi Curay, one of the instructors, said. 

For the instructor, volunteering for the self defense clinic is also a way of giving back to the community.

“It is important to learn the skill because it does not only develop the body but it also develops the mind. It develops their self awareness and awareness to the surroundings. It also molds the spirit to fight in all adversities that may come their way,” Curay added.

Moving forward

In February 2016, SWS surveyed women and men in barangays Payatas and Bagong Silangan in Quezon City regarding sexual harassment in public spaces. At least 88% of the female respondents ages 18 to 24 experienced sexual harassment at least once. Thirty-four percent of them experienced the “worst forms” of sexual harassment: flashing, public masturbation, and groping.

In worst cases, sexual harassment would lead to physical abuse. From 2011-2016, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) served a total of 7,418 victims of sexual abuse. Of this figure, 2,770 are incest victims.

“With abused women, pepretrators are usually family members. Most of the time, they do not have a home to go back to,” Fragrante said.  

Fragrante, who also experienced abuse when she was younger, said their goal is to empower abused women through education and raise more awareness about their plight.

Unfortunately, hindi pa ganoong kamulat ang mga tao tungkol sa pagaabuso at tugnkol sa pinagdadaanan ng mga biktima. Kailangan pa siyang ipaalam sa mga tao to get more help,” she said. (Unfortunately, people are not yet aware of the plight of abused women. We need to raise awareness to gather more help) 

While Fragante acknowledged that the problem runs deeper in the country’s culture, she is optimistic that the self-defense clinic would help empower the young and abused girls they have engaged with. –

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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.