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  • Writer's pictureKia Haumaru

Five hours of self-defence lessons could save your life

Hei whakamōhio noa ake, ko ngā whakairinga katoa ka tuaritia ki te reo i tuhia tuatahitia i tana putanga.

As investments go, self-defence courses cost little, and have been proven to offer real protection against sexual assault or violence.

Nearly 300 year 10 girls are being taught basic but effective self-defence in an annual series of workshops run by the Women's Self Defence Network Wahine Toa, at Palmerston North Girls' High School.

Tutor Julie Goldingham said national statistics showed too many girls and women would face sexual abuse or violence in their lifetime.

Each year she also teaches another 300 girls at Manawatu intermediate schools. However, she would like to see Ministry of Social Development funding extended for the long-running Girls' Self Defence Project, so more girls, as well as boys, can have self-defence training.

The five-hour course costs less than $50 and includes preventative safety lessons and physical techniques that can be used against a larger attacker.

An independent study released in April by Victoria University researchers concluded the Wahine Toa lessons were "highly effective", and prompted the Government to extend the programme as a national priority.

"We teach people in wheelchairs and do lessons for Age Manawatu, there's always something you can do. The techniques are really powerful, and designed to learn in a short time," Goldingham said.

The lessons also teach participants to know what behaviour toward them is not acceptable, and to speak up if something's not right.

"We have horrific figures round this sort of stuff. If something horrible ever happens to a child there's a 90 per cent chance that it's someone they know, so we cover that.

"We get them to identify safe adults in their life that will help them.

"We teach people to give a clear message early on, to nip it in the bud and not feel they have to be polite, sweet and cute – but to be clear, and say verbally what they are not OK with."

At Girls' High, the lessons are taught as part of physical education, which works well, Goldingham said.

The girls had fun, and particularly liked the message that they should look out for their friends and stick up for other people, she said.

"It makes them feel that they can do something. Living in fear is no way to live."

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