Are Online Empowerment Self-Defense Trainings Effective? Participants say YES!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, empowerment self-defense instructors across the world have risen to the challenge of continuing to offer essential safety and empowerment skills to those in need – even without the ability to offer in-person physical training. Empowerment Self-Defense training is an evidence-based framework for self-defense training that helps to build trust and self-confidence by providing individuals with a range of tools to respond to violence. An in-depth analysis of pre and post-course surveys completed by participants in a 4-session Empowerment Self-Defense course, offered to women working on the frontlines across the world by the ESD Global People on the Move (POM) program, clearly shows how effective online empowerment self-defense courses can be.

Despite the course being held exclusively online, participants still felt that they had gained more confidence in implementing ESD tools, especially when using physical techniques. More than 90% of participants either strongly agreed or agreed that the material provided and the instructors’ work was satisfactory and that the course was a good investment of their time. Furthermore, 100% of participants would recommend the training to co- workers, friends, family, and other women working on the frontlines.

Increased Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Results also showed a significant increase in self-confidence, boundary-setting abilities, and awareness techniques used to recognize danger. Participants expressed increases in self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of safety in their daily lives. We recorded an increase between 4% and 24% in all measures. A majority of participants strongly agreed with statements such as 'I feel strong and empowered' and 'I feel satisfied with myself'.

Personal Boundaries and Assertive Communication

The results of the surveys showed a significant self-reported increase for our participants in the ability to establish personal boundaries, set limits, and maintain assertive communication, especially when it comes to saying ‘No’ to friends and co-workers.

The majority of participants highlighted the importance of using their voice, being able to say ‘No’, being able to set boundaries, and recognizing the power in assertive communication. For many people, especially those affected by sexism, pressure to always say ‘yes’ can stem from expectations that we will always put other feelings first and serve other needs before our own. Empowerment self-defense training addresses these sexist expectations directly – for ESD practitioners, 'No’ is a complete sentence in and of itself. When an individual is empowerment to say ‘No’ to someone or something, the opportunity open for saying ‘Yes’ to respecting and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Physical Tools and Techniques

The implementation of physical tools and techniques saw the greatest positive increase compared to the pre-course survey. Despite the course being taught exclusively online, participants still stated they gained confidence in implementing self-defense tools taught in the online training - particularly concerning using their voice, defensive postures, trusting their intuition and having control of their body.

ESD training teaches participants how to interrupt violence by listening to their intuition, assessing their options, asserting boundaries, using de-escalation strategies. As a framework for self-defense training, empowerment-based principles prioritize providing tools for a full range of mental, verbal and physical responses. Teaching online comes with a set of challenges and barriers, especially when it comes to teaching physical tools and techniques. The positive increase reported by out participants is an exciting confirmation of what ESD instructors across the world already know – whatever the format, and despite the barriers presented by global pandemics and other constraints, ESD training works to improve the lives of participants.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against violence, coercion, and other violations of our rights to safety, respect, and empowerment. It is critical that people who currently surviving situations of violence know their rights and have access to the necessary tools to defend themselves and their communities.

At ESD Global, we will spread access to these essential tools via empowerment self-defense instructor training, whether online, in-person, or a combination of both. For more information on accessing training, please click here to contact us.


Eimear Breslin Is Project Officer for the People on the Move program. She holds an International Bachelor's degree as well as a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. Furthermore, she had the incredible opportunity to study Political Science for one year at the George Washington University in Washington DC. Eimear was a research and resource mobilization intern for Western and Central Europe at ESD Global during summer 2020. She thoroughly enjoyed the internship as it provided her with a great understanding of ESD and she was able to do great research into the organizations in the region doing great work. Eimear has a keen interest in gender, security and peace, from peacebuilding to gender based violence prevention to ensuring women are present and represented during peace talks. She hopes to continue to work towards preventing violence against vulnerable groups and hopes to contribute to bringing ESD to the People on the Move community.

Gabriela Rojas-Lozano is an ESDGlobal LAC Fellow/colaboradora. Activist, feminist, and explorer of encounters and spaces through art, she has been working with marginalized migrant communities in different regions where she had the opportunity to live. She is currently completing her Studies in Gender and Diversity and training as a PRT therapist. She has a degree in law and a certificate in International Cooperation.

Gabriela considers herself as the embodiment of contradictions and encounters, in a literal and figurative way. While born with the oppressors and the oppressed's blood, her body carries many privileges while simultaneously experiencing inequalities and disadvantages.

"My passport, degrees, skin color, sexual preference, and other intersections had shaped the way I see and live my reality. Nevertheless, throughout the years, I had been able to find my voice and question what, how, and who defines me. As someone very passionate and curious, I believe that the ESD fellowship is the perfect platform and opportunity to combine my passion and personal fights with my work and continuous learning process," says Gabriela.

RSS Feed
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook
  • Black YouTube Icon
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

© 2021 by ESD Global Inc.