FightHer is a non-profit founded by Silvy Kalra to arm women with self-defence techniques by martial arts experts free of cost.Rekha Balakrishnan
Growing up in Kerala with frequent power cuts and in a not-so-safe environment, while returning home from work every day, I would make a 200-metre dash from the main road to my home through a gully in record time that would rival PT Usha’s (on a bad day).
Jokes apart, in the time it took to traverse that short distance, my heart would race fast, a million “what-ifs” would run through my mind, and my only goal would be to reach home without any ‘incident’. It was a terrifying thought because if someone were to accost me, I would not know how to react, let alone defend myself.
Decades later, not much has changed in Indian cities even today. Women still feel unsafe travelling alone at night from their workplaces to their homes or even just staying out late. Every day, we hear of incidents that shock us, which are not quite surprising anymore.
So, what can we do to feel safer? While we cannot hope for a sudden turnaround in the way things are, the best we can do right now is to learn self-defence. How to ward off an intruder, fight back a predator, and how to use our own physical strength to fight back.
Silvy Kalra, like every other journalist in New Delhi, has had her share of late nights and experienced this fear of travelling alone. She has had her handbag snatched on numerous occasions, and there was this constant nagging fear that something untoward may happen.
Silvy admits she left her full-time job because of this very reason.
“The fear of staying out alone hampered my career. I wanted to do more stories but since I stayed far away from office, it was getting difficult.”
After completing stints at India Today TV and Quint, she now works as the Communications Manager at an NGO in Delhi.
One day, while returning home from work, Silvy overheard a conversation between two domestic workers on how unsafe it was for them to go back home every night but they had no choice.
“This conversation was perhaps the impetus I needed to look at self-defence classes,” says Silvy explaining how her initiative FightHer took shape last October. It all began with one self-defence class by a martial arts expert in her colony park in Paschim Vihar, West Delhi.
“The class was open to all. Ten people attended, including Rekha, a 22-year-old domestic help from Jharkhand. She was very excited by the whole thing and wanted to learn how to defend herself,” she recalls.
Silvy paid for the classes out of her own pocket and continues to organise them regularly. “The purpose of learning self-defence is not just to increase your physical strength but also up your confidence level so that you are prepared in case of an attack. When you are walking alone late at night, you may be fearful or anxious and these classes will help you from feeling scared all the time.”
Around 50 people have attended the classes out of which a sizeable number are women and young girls. Silvy now plans to organise two classes a month. Happy with the response she received, Silvy registered the initiative under the name FightHer, as a non-profit organisation.
Silvy explains what a self-defence class at FightHer entails.
“At these classes, the trainers teach techniques like how to defend in case of a knife attack, how to defend if attacked from behind, which spots to hit and run when attacked, how to defend with your chest, stomach and face, basic kicks, chin and elbow punches, knee defence, shin kick on the lower leg, and props you can use to defend yourself,” she adds.
Among the girls who attend these classes is Babita, a Class IX student, who has learnt many self-defence moves. She says, “This is a skill that every girl should learn. I enjoyed the class and I wish to attend more in the future.”
Silvy now wants to extend these classes to other open spaces like community parks in urban areas so that more people become aware of self-defence.
“I would also like to take the initiative to rural areas in future when FightHer receives some funding. So far, I have been managing operations with my savings and a little contribution from like-minded friends.”