Episode 2

Published on:

8th Mar 2022

Violence Prevention and Healing through Empowerment Self Defense – with ESD Global

We’ve handed the megaphone to Molly Singer and Gabriela Rojas Lozano from ESD Global to talk about how they are using healing and self-defense training to empower women and marginalized communities around the world.

ESD stands for Empowerment Self Defense, and it helps individuals develop easy-to-use techniques such as awareness, assertiveness, and verbal confrontation skills in combination with safety strategies and physical techniques to prevent, resist, and escape violent assaults.

They envision a world where everyone at risk of interpersonal violence can live free of it.

In this episode you'll learn;

  • how ESD is applicable to combat all kinds of violence - not just physical, but economic, financial, social, etc.
  • the regional capacity model they are using to really key into all different communities and serve them as best they can.
  • what this training can do to improve each of our lives as well as those around us.

To learn more visit esdglobalselfdefense.org and follow them on social at; IG: @esdglobalselfdefense and TW: @ESD_Global

This is a Growth Network Podcasts production. Our producers are Lynz Floren, Sari Weinerman, and Jeffrey Morris. Production Manager is Maura Murphy Barrosse. Original music, sound design, and mixing by Nicolas Fournier. Promotional support from Marsha Ord. Website by Nick Brodnicki.

Mentioned in this episode:

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To me, ESD Global's mission means that the whole

narrative worldwide incorporates that living a life free of violence, it's a human

right. And we all feel safe and have it in our bodies. Which means that all

bodies does suffer, all kinds of discrimination

s with different intersections can

feel that they have the power, they own the power, and they have the right live a

life free of violence. My name Gabriela Rojas Lazano and I am the Latin

American and Caribbean Program Manager at ESD Global.




My name is Molly Singer. I am the Executive Director of

ESD Global. To me, ESD Global's mission means stopping perpetrators of

violence, particularly interpersonal violence. We don't really believe that we're

going to stop war, but stopping perpetrat

ion is important. And part of that is

teaching individuals how to deescalate violence, how to fight gender norms and

gender stereotyping, where boys will be boys. And the other part of it is

knowing that every woman in the world, every girl, and every woma

n in the

world, every person, it doesn't just have to be women, have the skills to protect

themselves. So if you try to come after me, I can hurt you. And I don't mean that

as a threat. I just mean it as a, gosh if I know she can hurt me, I don't think I'm

going to bother with that person.



This is Mission Megaphone, a Growth Network Podcast

production. We're on a mission to be a megaphone for purpose driven

organizations that are changing the world.



My work consists i

n two parts. First, to build a network of

ESD trainers, upon already existing networks of activists support woman in the

Latin American and Caribbean region. And this includes organizing life

transforming trainings, accompanying graduates to take their ski

lls back to their

communities and to contribute, to learn. And second, I work with a talented

team of people to build a partnership and conduct also research and ensured that

we can continue escalating this project.



And my work centers o

n supporting a team to build networks

worldwide that engage individuals and communities to end violence using their

own power, knowledge, and skills. The work that we do works to increase

confidence, reduce violence and its impact on communities.




I think it's important to clarify what ESD is. ESD stands

for empowerment and self


defense. And ESD is a public health intervention

designed by and for woman. So we have tools to avoid danger and de



conflict. We address violence in a s

ystemic way. We work on building and

increasing confidence in people that are participating in economic systems and

social systems. So that means that we are talking about economic,

psychological, and verbal violence and all different kinds of violence. We


work on increasing self


efficiency and own building and strengthening

networks of solidarity.



So in other words, our program really focuses on teaching

participants to recognize potentially violent situations and take the steps to


ddress them so this happens first by understanding their own power and ability

and values. And that they are the individuals who are going to change their

lives. There's not a fairy goddess that's going to come by and change their lives

for them. And by th

e way that we teach, it really reinforces that feeling and

builds community and cohesion.

ESD Global has a phenomenal origin story. Like ESD, it starts not with

the feminist movement in the:

where women were

tired of hearing messages like "you can have it all, but don't

go out late at night." "You can do whatever you want, but you ought to listen to

a man to find out directions about how to do something."

And from that, a group of women said, this is crazy. Th

ey used the principles of

martial arts to understand that disproportionately sized people or people of

physical disadvantage to each other can still leverage the basics of anatomy to

protect themselves. And so that is where ESD started. And there were many

people that were practicing ESD and teaching in church basements and in

elementary schools or girl scout troops, but ESD Global has the most visionary

founder ever.

Her name is Yehudit Sidikman and she always thinks bigger. She has started

many businesse

s, many organizations and all of them thriving. So Yehudit

brought together, again it wasn't her, it was her idea bringing together many

practitioners that said, we need to scale this. The world needs this. You know,

it's not enough that we're teaching six

girls scouts here and 12 church members

there and some people at my synagogue and she started ESD Global with the

goal, not to teach ESD around the world, but to create ESD trainers around the


Participants in our programs, ESD Global's, work in coh

orts to support and

protect each other so that they can bring their skills back to the community. So

ESD Global is about tapping into partnerships and networks and helping

individuals strengthen them and leverage new skills, bringing new skills to the





Being someone that experienced the training first person,

I can tell that there's nothing that can prepare you to experience a training that

can change the inhabit your body. I see a world where each individual, not only

women, but

each individual can walk freely, can have healthy relationships

themselves, with the people around them, with the environment. Where we can

truly take the best of ourselves and be that version that we aren't even sure that

exists of ourselves, where the li

mits we set them ourselves, where we put the

boundaries, that would be the world I want to see.

I feel that it's going to change everything. This should be taught at a schools.

This should be taught at houses because it changed the relationship you have


th yourself, with your partner, with your children, with every institution. So I

think in the proportion of a world where people can embrace and leave this as I

go everyday life, I think we're talking world where we cannot even understand

what it is to hav

e this kind of freedom



I believe that groups and organizations can change the world.

I remember giving a talk at a high school once, and I said, by the way, don't

forget that you can change the world. The world is here for are changing a

nd we

see it happening every day in technology and all of these ways. We don't really

think about it as changing the world, but they are. And the way that we are

going to change the world is that the skills that people learn in ESD will be

thoroughly incor

porated into all kinds of growing and learning, so that it won't

just be self


defense against violence. It will be self


defense against financial

exploitation. Self


defense against economic pressures against not being able to

go to school not being able to

vote. All of these are pathways to true freedom

for everybody. And the messages and themes in self


defense, transcend the

physical violence and the physical need into entire liberty.



I think when we think of self


defense, we have thi

s image

of a superwoman that is going to go in and hit someone, right? So it goes

through in our brains to this physical techniques, but it's way more than just

that. The physical techniques are just one part of the tools that we work with

together. It's a

pool of tools that this woman can actually goes from assessment

of the situation, that goes from communication, setting up boundaries, and using

techniques out of relationships. And all different points where actually the

physical part is just one of thos

e points.



Although I can say I'll add to that, that there is a physical part

where women, you know, sometimes even some of our trainers are like four feet

tall, but they know a hard part of their body against a soft part of somebody


's body, it doesn't matter how much you're outweighed. If you elbow

somebody in the neck or you kick somebody in the groin, you're going to cause

them harm, they're going to stop, and you're going to be able to get away. And

those are part of the skills. I

don't want to say we don't teach physical skills

because at the end of our class, you can save your own life.

ESD Global has served globally. The Asia Pacific region, in Europe, and Latin

America, South America, the Caribbean, in Canada and the United St

ates, and

Mexico and North America, Africa. We've had representatives from 43

countries and partnerships at about 90 countries. The only continent that we

have not been in as Antarctica, because no matter how hard we try, the penguins

are not interested.


e also have a region without a map, I'll call it. We have a program area called

People on the Move, which is for individuals who are displaced geographically

from a location. So they might be refugees, survivors of war crimes, individuals

that cannot legal

ly live as their true self in a particular place, and we have

programs with those folks and professionals that work with them because

people are at terrific risk moving about the world.

Our community is our partners. We are key on building partnerships to

tap into

networks. We don't believe that we can go to a community in Mexico where we

were last month and we, ESD Global as outsiders, can go there and transcend

lives. Our community is our partners and they take us to their community. We

do it through est

ablished networks who can help identify and address the needs.

And the partners themselves are from and community.



This is I think something core to our organization as a

goal also. It's that we're not just looking into numbers but bu

ilding regional

capacity means that the region represents itself. For us, that's very important for

representation. That happened already. The cohort we train in Costa Rica was a

cohort that last month was training a new team in Mexico, which completed a


ull cycle. Those that were trained with training new trainers. And I think this is

very important because we're working on levels of deconstructing our

organization. So it's not like a green organization coming and telling people

how to do things. No, we n

eed to move beyond that. So it's a lot of culturally

adapted perspectives. It's a lot of bringing a diversity inclusion and justice

perspective and inequity. So we're working on that and that intersects all the

work we are doing.



In gene

ral, the people we train are informal women leaders in

community. Sometimes they're men leaders who are a part of enlightened

masculinity and you know, breaking down the gender stereotypes in the world.

But often it will be a social worker, a school teache

r, sometimes it'll be a 65

year old granny who just has her finger on the pulse of the community.



I think it also differs from region to region and what

community we're addressing. Because we talked a little different communities.

We a

re working with organizations that already had their networks, for example

the UN, the Norwegian Refugee Council, that they serve certain populations or

collaborate with certain populations. We will have a specific communication

with them through partnersh

ips but we do have different groups of people that

work with grassroots movements. We use a lot of social media, so we even use

different social media for each region. It's not the same in Latin America

communicating, and in Africa and in Europe. So we use

different channels. For

Mexico, we started an all grassroots level, so we needed to start building and

nurturing this partnerships for over a year, by hearing someone that actually

came to us and say, we need your work with us.

So then to build a whole ne

twork around that, to communicate our message, to

have podcasts or Instagram lives or address our populations according to their

needs and their own ways to communicate. So I say we tried to use different

channels, you know, different levels of communicati

on that tailored to the

population and our partners and potential partners, but we're trying to address it

all. So we have to head in different directions.

We like to dream. I wouldn't call it big. I think this has been realistic, we like to

keep making d

reams a reality. Global, it's only three years old. And we trained

cohorts that train thousands of students in few years. So for us, but the end of

2023, we want to have and we will have established trainers in every region of

the world. We have planned 22

trainings for:

happening, where we will reach out to around 330 students, that they

approximately we'll reach out through 33,000 students. Going with the

minimum numbers we are handling at the moment. And that's going on our


stic scale.



We train trainers. So when we go and hold a training for

trainers, let's say 30 trainers, within the first year, each of those trainers is to

teach a hundred people ESD. So when Gabriela was saying, we'll hold 22

trainings, sorry, you didn't know there's

going to be math on this podcast, for

330 trainers, and then each of those will reach a hundred people. So that's where

we get in one year 33,000 more people will have learned ESD. So it's a big year

for us. And once we are able to have regional teams, we'

ll really be able to scale

because right now it's a logistics challenge to get trainers North America and

Israel all over the world, not to say the expense of it.

I wanted to talk a little bit about our larger scale goals, or organizational goals.

I mean

, 33,000 people is pretty large scale. We are really working on growing

our partnerships with global organizations and we've succeeded at that in the

past year and are really building on it for next year.

So for example, we're working with the United Nati

ons across a few of their

different agencies. We're working with the US Department of State and some

international foundations. Those partnerships bring funding which is key, and

visibility that we could not have had before. And of course it's all part of

networking, right? So those partners introduce us to others, which is great for

moving ideas and projects forward faster because we're able to, you know, link

into a global movement.



Healing is a very important part of the work that t


used, the methodology task, but also the direction that ESD Global takes on this

process of addressing violence. It is part of the work that we're doing that is not

only preventing, but healing has to start with communicating what is happening

within t

he situation of the person. We also talk and work heavily on a trauma

informed practices to the people that we are training and are going to train

people, but also within our own scope of work. So we also address networks as

a very important space for heal

ing sorority. So this is the space where people go

on here and different processes 'cause sometimes healing, it's a non



process in general.

So sometimes that will mean that in a community, we cannot go until you have

to go out and talk and say, what happened to you? Sometimes telling means

connecting with your ancestors, connecting with your spirituality. These are this

processes that we honor

, that we address and we work on different tools that

people can have, but we feel that why using this methodology, people have the

ultimate tool to also heal, which is empowerment. They empower them

themselves. And that itself as part of the healing proce




In terms of creating a healing environment and addressing

harm before, during and after ESD training, we have to understand, I'll say the

house that we live in, right. We were all raised with cultural thoughts and

associations that w

e may reject one hand. But those are still the only cultural

associations we have. You know, I often say you can't burn down the house you

live in. People live with shame their lives, that is just a cloud or a bruise on their

heart that we have to support

them heal themselves, before they can become

advocates for themselves and for others.



What I would love people to do after hearing this is first

of all, take a moment for yourself and take a deep breath. We don't know what

traumas cou

ld this trigger, what sensations are happening in your body and

what's happening in your life right now. It is okay. You got this. We got this.

Then please be curious. As curious as you can be. Feed that curiosity, you

know, Google it all in internet, ESD,

whether through us or through any

network, reach out. Just be curious. And the answer is there for you already.



I want people to reach out to us, send us their ideas for how

we could engage with their community. So they could reach to us


esdglobalselfdefense.org. On social media, we are @esdglobalselfdefense. To

share their ideas or to come to us. People can go to the principal of their school

and say, Hey, do you know about empowerment self defence, we should be

teaching that in gym c

lass. They can go to their girl scout trips, there actually is

a girl scout badge in ESD.

They can talk to parks and rec or their local government because the cost of

providing ESD is minimal compared to the cost of recovery from violence in

the community

. So they can call us and say, come to our community and set up

a training. I think raise awareness. Talk with other people about violence against

women and oppression of individuals in all the forms that it takes. There really

can be death by paper cuts i

n terms of oppression of individuals.

We have a great tool on our website, it's 16 ways that you can support women

and girls through empowerment. And it's a PDF, it's a great download, it's free,

it's beautiful. It's easy to understand.

Violence against

women is an epidemic. It has increased 500% during COVID.

And what everybody can do is act locally.



You've been listening to Mission Megaphone, a Growth

Network Podcasts production. Follow this podcast for more incredible stories

from pur

pose driven organizations and individuals you'll want to meet. To learn

more about this show or ESD Global check out our show notes.

Until we meet again, keep searching for inspiration. And when you find it ,,

make sure to pass it on

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About the Podcast

Mission Megaphone
An Introduction To Organizations You Should Know
How do you find out about organizations that you can feel good about supporting? Each episode, we're introducing you to an inspiring person doing amazing work at a mission based organization. We are giving them the mic and acting as their megaphone to help get their message out to the world!
Mission Megaphone is a Growth Network Podcast Production. Learn more at www.growthnetworkpodcasts.com/missionmegaphone
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