Jordanian self-defense trainer helps empower women

Leen Hajjar
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Acknowledged by U.S. President Barack Obama as a “leader of social change,” Jordanian Lina Khalifeh has gained high praise across the globe for establishing “SheFighter,” the first self-defense studio for women in Jordan. Through self-defense training, Khalifeh is striving to empower young girls and women both physically and emotionally. Her fierce passion for social change combined with her incredible martial arts skill set is inspiring thousands of women to become confident and powerful figures in society.

SheFighter aims to help women acquire the necessary skills to protect themselves in dangerous situations, as well as develop self-confidence. (Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)
SheFighter aims to help women acquire the necessary skills to protect themselves in dangerous situations, as well as develop self-confidence. (Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)

SheFighter provides specialized self-defense and martial arts training for girls and women. It combines classic martial arts techniques with self-defense and self-empowerment strategies, aiming to help women acquire the necessary skills to protect themselves in dangerous situations, as well as develop self-confidence.


The beginning

In 2010, founder Lina Khalifeh became inspired to teach self-defense to women after learning that a friend was experiencing physical and emotional abuse. With an extensive background in martial arts, she was determined to teach self-defense, hoping to help women combat violent situations. She first began training women in her parent’s basement. Two years later, in 2012, after conducting immense research on violence against women and fulfilling numerous educational programs, Khalifeh established the SheFighter studio in Jordan’s capital Amman.

Since it launched, the SheFighter team has continuously implemented local and international self-defense projects. Last month, SheFighter organized an intensive self-defense training program for Syrian female refugees in Jordan. In September 2015, SheFighter trained self-defense to women with disabilities in Amman, and in November, Khalifeh spoke at the Global One Young World Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, about the importance of self-defense for women.

Her ongoing determination to empower women has earned Khalifeh many achievements across the globe. In October 2013, she received the “Laureate Global Award” in Brazil, acknowledging SheFighter as “one of the best social business ideas in the MENA region.” In May 2015, during a speech at the White House Global Entrepreneurs Event, President Barack Obama said: “So far, Lina has helped about 10,000 women learn how to protect themselves; thank you Lina, we want to be your partner in helping women to live with dignity and safety.”

Idea on paper

Speaking with Khalifeh at her studio in Amman, she said: “The idea of helping empower women came to me when I was 24 years old; at first it was just an idea on paper. However, hearing about my friend’s negative experience with abuse deeply impacted me. I said to myself, I’ve been practicing martial arts since I was five years old and I want to do something about this issue. I began conducting a lot of research and planning to be able to launch a self-defense studio for women, and since then I have accomplished my mission and SheFighter has been successful.”

Khalifeh added: “The main thing I’ve noticed in the transformation that occurs to the girls and women after enrolling at SheFighter is the increase in their self-confidence. Some women join being extremely quiet and shy and they transform into empowered individuals who feel confident speaking in the media and speaking in classrooms. I am striving to expand SheFighter into a school or a university: a women empowerment/self-defense school for females in Jordan and abroad. I hope to develop SheFighter into a system, a universal school or program. It’s going to take some time but if you are doing something for a good cause with a lot of hard work, it will succeed.”

(Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)
(Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)

Qamar Al Natsheh, SheFighter trainer said: “I used to be shy before coming to SheFighter, I sometimes wouldn’t speak up and defend myself when I should have and I started becoming upset with myself. However, after joining SheFighter, it changed my entire personality for the better. When I walk into a class at university, I’m not shy anymore but instead, I speak up and say what is on my mind. SheFighter helps build one’s personality. It helps girls overcome their shyness and it gives them strength.”

(Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)
(Leen Hajjar/Al Arabiya English)

Sarah Abu Shawish, SheFighter member said: “Being in a place like SheFighter that aims to help girls become strong, defend themselves, and not be afraid of anything, is truly incredible. It makes me happy and relaxed every time I come to the studio because it reminds me that nothing can come in my way; it helps make my personality stronger and increase my confidence.”

Violence against women is a universal concern affecting many females across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 (35 percent) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Despite this unfortunate statistic, Khalifeh continues to carry her mission forward, striving to combat this issue by spreading confidence and empowerment among thousands of women.

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