Girl Up & ESD Global Combine Forces to Empower Girls

ESD Global combined forces with Girl Up, an international organization advancing girls' skills, rights, and opportunities to be leaders, to offer an empowerment self-defense workshop at the July 2020 Girl Up Summit. This event connects world leaders, gender equality advocates, and inspires activists for gender equality.

“The most common feedback I get from adult women in my ESD classes is :“I wish this had been accessible for me when I was younger",” says Rachel Collins, the ESD Global staff member who presented an hour-long workshop on basic empowerment self-defense skills to more than 150 girls at the Girl UP summit last week.

While this year's summit had to be virtual, it had no shortage of enthusiasm behind it. With 38,000 attendees, and speakers ranging from Hillary Clinton to activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, the annual summit is exactly the kind of big picture partnership that many ESD trainers and organizations are working to build across the world. “The goal is to get these skills to everyone who needs them, full stop, and girls are the right place to start", says Rachel.

“This year’s Summit was our largest and most global ever,” wrote Melissa Kilby, Girl Up’s executive director, in a note to participants. “Over three days, we engaged more than 25,000 participants from 170 countries across all seven continents.”

Rachel’s workshop "Empowerment Self-Defense: Your Voice is Powerful!" covered practical tools for real-life situations girls commonly face, providing workshop attendees with tools to defend their rights to be safe, healthy, and respected. More than 150 girls attended via zoom, following along with verbal and physical skills practice and discussing the techniques via chat box.

Last year, ESD Global President and Founder Yehudit Sidikman presented at the 2019 Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, where she invited attendees on stage for an impromptu board breaking session.

For ESD instructors and students, the concrete skills are only part of the benefit to this training. “Even after one session, you start to see the difference,” said Lisa Gaeta, founder and CEO of IMPACT Personal Safety in Los Angeles .The research supports her conviction, with studies consistently proving that ESD participants gain confidence and efficacy in advocating for themselves and responding to violence. (1) (2)

Through even a short course in ESD, participants learn tools to set boundaries, respond to boundary violations, de-escalate situations, and stay safe physically, by practicing both physical and verbal self-defense techniques. By talking about shared experiences within a supportive group, participants gain context for their experiences, and by collaboratively addressing the negative patterns many women and girls face daily, women are able to discover a new connection to their own power. Whether it is a one hour training session, or a twelve week course, instructors repeatedly notice a significant difference in skills and confidence within their participants.

Though in-person training is on hold due to the global effects of the COVID19 pandemic, ESD Global online training and webinar programs aim to create new trainers and support existing trainers despite these challenging times, helping to make the benefits of ESD training accessible globally. Intersecting squarely with the mission of ESD Global, Girl Up offers a variety of programs to support collective action toward their mission - uniting girls to change the world. By supporting women and girls to create initiatives in their own communities, Girl Up facilitates activists to fundraise, organize events, and create clubs and organizations.

As ESD’s benefits grow more accessible to girls across the world, instructors and advocates emphasize that everyone has a role to play. For parents, teachers and students, this can mean advocating for the inclusion of ESD concepts into school curriculum and in programs outside of school settings. For ally organizations like Girl Up, it can mean ensuring that ESD is represented in girl-centered programs and events. For those new to ESD, it can mean seeking out local organizations to provide ESD education for themselves or their loved ones, or supporting the creation of new ESD organizations.

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