This Indian woman was harassed, so she decided to take action and now teaches underprivileged girls kung fu for free.
Ishita Sharma is a woman living in India who is an actress, dancer, and founder of AAMAD, a dance, martial arts, and yoga institute. She is also one of many women in India who have experienced harassment from males on the streets but one of few who decided to turn her experience into a positive action.
Sharma was driving home late one night alone when she realized she was being followed. She wrote about her encounter on Facebook:
“The other day, there were 3 bikes with 2 boys each who were literally peeping into my car and giggling away. I did not like the look on their faces. This was at 10:30 pm, in quite a bustling area, Shastri Nagar, the road with Kokilaben; the roads were not vacant. And yet, the boys kept following me. I slowed down to let them pass, they slowed with me. I stared, they laughed. I moved faster, they moved with me. I stopped, they stopped. In the next moment, I found myself shouting at them with the window almost rolled down, and in the next second, they were gone.”
This experience left the actress rattled and she decided that something needed to be done to prevent situations like this or stop them from escalating. Sharma was already enrolled in a kung fu class when the idea struck her; she and the kung fu instructor, Alex Fernandes, partnered up and committed themselves to teaching free kung fu classes to underprivileged girls at a local beach.
As Sharma explained, “When THEY know you have courage, they too are scared. I think the one thing that we need at this point is COURAGE. To stand up, to make some noise, to tell people to shut up.” With this thought in mind, Sharma knew that giving girls the courage to fight back would be the best way to help girls, should they ever be in a situation where they feel threatened. The mission for the classes was to “empower lesser-privileged girls with free martial arts training.”
Rape, sexual assault, and harassment are huge problems in India, and this isn’t the first time martial arts has been used as a preventative for such horrendous acts. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 93 women in India are raped everyday. About 13% of these reported rapes have victims that are under the age of 14 and 26% were aged 14-18. Many incidents go unreported because of fear of humiliation or retaliation from the suspects, and some cases end in murder of the victim. With such a startling high number of sex crimes being committed against young girls, it’s no wonder Sharma felt compelled to help out somehow.
After visiting several schools in the surrounding areas to promote their first class, the two were hopeful that they would have some attendees on the first day, but this wasn’t the case. Not a single person showed up. Sharma and Fernandes did not give up, but instead branched out further and encouraged teachers and parents to spread the news and bring their students and children. The second class was a success, as many children attended the class and several others nearby became curious and joined in as well.
They had so many interested attendees and word is spreading fast, so they now have two free classes every weekend at the same beach. The classes are, of course, not limited to girls and are taken very seriously by community members now. The children feel more empowered as they learn skills to fight back in potentially dangerous situations, although the hope is that they will never need to use them.
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