Boston, Jerusalem partner to reduce gender violence

ESD Global & El HaLev featured in The Jewish Advocate.

A partnership between a Boston-based non-profit, ESD Global Inc., and a Jerusalem based non-profit, El HaLev, continues to defy borders in its mission to mobilize global action towards ending violence against women. Since 2017, ESD Global has trained over 150 Empowerment Self-Defense instructors from 46 countries.

Amidst coronavirus travel restrictions, the cancellation of the U.N. CSW64, the largest gathering of civil society at the U.N. in support of women did not deter the two organizations from carrying their mission to empower women globally. The NGO forum, initially scheduled to take place in New York,

was due to host 10,000 women from around the world to discuss issues pertaining to women. ESD Global Inc. was not hindered by the last-minute cancellation and held the webinar in partnership with El HaLev as scheduled, on March 9, relocated to Temple Beth Zion, Brookline. The webinar: “Empowerment Self- Defense: Violence Prevention Strategies for Women and Children” covered the importance of collective action in driving gender parity on a global level.

Only three weeks ago, the two organizations co-hosted the first International Violence Prevention Conference in Jerusalem, bringing together participants from 24 countries and 7 U.S. states, from as far away as the Turtle Mountain Chippewa reservation in North Dakota, to representatives from Safe Hands for Girls in Gambia, to refugee workers from Greece.

The two-day conference featured scholars, activists, and diplomats with concurrent sessions on violence prevention education with an array of topics ranging from training early child-care workers and helping victims of economic violence to online risks of cyber bullying. The conference followed a violence prevention training that brought 50 people with amazing stories to Jerusalem for a week to learn how to teach Empowerment Self- Defense to women and children. Training new Empowerment Self-Defense instructors is the most effective way to share life-saving violence prevention skills with vulnerable populations.

Ellen Krause-Grosman, executive director of ESD Global Inc., was thrilled about co-hosting the conference and facilitating Empowerment Self-Defense trainings with El HaLev, the very center where the pedagogy of Empowerment Self-Defense training was developed. El HaLev has been a center for violence prevention education for 17 years, teaching women how to set boundaries and protect themselves in violent situations.

Yehudit (Yudit) Zicklin-Sidikman, cofounder and CEO of El HaLev and founder and president of ESD Global Inc., says, “I look to the Jewish community when I want to see how we can change the world because I believe that we are raised with a profound understanding of ‘self.’” She shares a saying by Hillel that shaped her beliefs growing up.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” she says. “And being for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” “My body, my voice, my soul, my talents, are mine to protect – my gift,” Zicklin-Sidikman explains. “Every decision I make has to be about protecting this gift. The special ‘what’ I bring into the world is what I do with the gift I was given. Protect the gift and use it to make the world a better place. You have to step outside yourself to do good and drive global change.”

Zicklin-Sidikman is excited to use this ‘gift’ to solve a global epidemic: violence against women. Following the successful programs and February conference, she made the trip from Israel to Boston to share her expertise and help ESD Global Inc. scale its program to become accessible to vulnerable populations around the world.

Zicklin-Sidikman is excited about the collaboration between ESD Global Inc. and El HaLev to mobilize efforts across borders in their untiring pursuit to end gender-based violence across the globe.

“I am thrilled beyond belief that ESD Global Inc. is based in Boston, a vibrant community at the forefront of innovative change,” she said. “I have the privilege of coming from Israel, a startup nation that had to turn swamps into cities and look for innovative solutions.”

This very innovation was required to pioneer programs that are accessible to women not well versed in traditional combat. El HaLev grew from the need to provide women with practical skills to defend themselves through training that is catered to females.

Over the last 17 years, El HaLev has designed a practical program that not only helps create a safer environment for women who aren’t familiar with martial arts, but equips them with life-saving skills and the resilience to navigate their day-to-day lives safely. Zicklin-Sidikman sought to share this knowledge worldwide by teaching teachers to make these programs accessible in their own communities in a way that resonates with the local language. Violence is a global problem, but needs to be addressed at a grass-roots level in accordance to each community's needs. ESD Global strives to bring Empowerment Self- Defense to people of all backgrounds enabling them to live bolder and healthier lives.

View article in The Jewish Advocate.

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