Bringing ESD to Costa Rica

At ESD Global, we believe very strongly in “the power of one.” Our entire model is based on our belief that one woman has the power to impact one community, and that one community has the power to lead to worldwide social change.

Aude Mulliez is definitely an example of the power of one. After attending last year’s camp, she went back to her community in Costa Rica, where she has been hard at work teaching empowerment self-defense.

As a result, nine women from Aude’s program at The UN University for Peace will be at camp this summer.Aude is here today to tell us about her experience.

Welcome, Aude!

Q. You’ve been involved in what you’ve described as a “women’s solidarity movement” for a while now. Please tell us a bit about that.

A. Great question. I think this is best described through an anecdote:

One day, I was with a friend and we entered a public space, a ruin of an amphitheater, known for its ancient architectural design that amplifies sound. Spontaneously, a young woman took the center and recited a monologue.

All the visitors quieted down as we were finally able to understand the architectural amplification. Another woman followed in her place. Once they finished, the few visitors and myself applauded their efforts and I told my friend, “Those women are goddesses.” My friend expressed to me that her first reaction was judgement towards these women, a negative judgement towards her observation that these women were “asking for attention” and for a reason which she could not understand, they shouldn’t be.

As bell hooks and many other feminist activists have said, the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”/our societies across the planet enforce the notion that humans who identify as women, as femmes, feminine or as other gender identities are enemies, manipulative, not to be revered and not to trusted. In this context, a “women’s solidarity movement” is striving to be in allyship with women and people of other gender identities in their efforts in demanding their rights, space and dreams to be acknowledged and respected.

Q. How did you find out about ESD Global, and what drew you to camp and empowerment self-defense training?

A. I first heard about “feminist self defense” at a conference at the University of Costa Rica about Gender and Security. A trans rights activist ended the conference sharing the need for feminist self-defense. From there, I contacted my network of badass women and was put in contact with El Halev and Yudit who offered me a spot at camp. From my 10 years involved in kickboxing in a women’s led Karate dojo in Atlanta, I understood the power and support of women in martial arts. Having a Masters in Gender and Peacebuilding, I understood the need and opportunity ESD could provide.

Last year’s camp was a great start to my training:

Q. You've definitely brought ESD back to your community in Costa Rica. Please tell us how it’s going, and what you’ve been working on.

I am grateful for the support of my community. Dr. Gal Harmat invited me to teach a 4 hour class in her “Intro to Gender” course at the UN mandated University for Peace a month after I returned from camp. Her support allowed me to put my learning into practice with a diverse group who shared their new knowledge with the rest of the student body.

Here's one of my students, Shemaina:

From the first of the five classes in these other groups, they had clearly understood that this is information that should be shared at the kindergarden level and they realized that this should be the case in all of their countries.

At ESD camp, we were invited to learn to share the information in a way that makes the participants active ​​and able to teach and share with others. I think this is an aspect that is very inspiring and I believe also why many of the women I had the opportunity to teach felt that they could participate at this year’s camp and in turn, share the information with their communities, in their countries or in the countries where they will work and live next.

Currently, I am working with other camp participants to reach out to other self-defense instructors in the Latin American region so that we may work together to provide this information to as many willing participants as possible. We are looking at schools, community centers, dance studios, dojos, feminist circles, NGOS, government institutions, and other non-formal groups.

Also, through the local intersectional feminist networks, I have begun to assemble key strategies to adapting the ESD techniques to the realities of the participants in these groups.

​​Q. Have you set any goals, either immediate or long-term, that you’d like to share with us? What support do you need to help you reach those goals?

A. My current goal (as I am about to have my first child in July) is to learn from the women who have been teaching and involved in the empowerment self-defense networks. I think it is indispensable to learn from their best practices as well as obstacles.

In addition, I am reaching out to all of my networks with gender focused programs to either inform them of the possibilities and opportunities ESD has to offer and to create a structured plan for the future. From the small amount of research I have conducted so far, it has been incredible to learn of all the women and organizations providing self-defense with a focus on gender (as it is mostly refered to in this region) and to hear that they are interested in coming together.

In order to accomplish these goals, I will continue to depend on the ESD community for their support and guidance!

​​Q. Do you have a message, advice or words of wisdom for this year’s camp participants or any woman who is looking to train as an ESD practitioner?

A. As I believe I have said before, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with incredible women doing incredible things. Of course, the training is important! However, forging symbiotic relationships with the women at the camp is what truly drives the passion and possibilities.

Thank you, Aude! We look forward following your adventures into the world of ESD and getting to know the nine women you've sent our way.

We know this is only the beginning. Your power is exponential!

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