El HaLev

Empowerment Self-Defense- Ending the Culture of Violence

Lead Organization

El HaLev

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel


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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Violence against women, children, and vulnerable populations is a world-wide epidemic. It effects at least one in three women and one in five children. People with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of violence. We will reduce world-wide violence against women, children and vulnerable populations by 50% through the method of Empowerment Self Defense (ESD). ESD is proven to be the most effective, researched violence-prevention protocol. The “teach the teacher” model of ESD Global and El HaLev is a curriculum that can be adapted to address cultural sensitivity and meet the needs of specific communities that have been historically marginalized. With strategic funding, we can scale access to ESD training faster and with broader impact. We plan to train 1,500 ESD teachers over five years and support them to teach over 2,000,000 women, children and members of vulnerable populations in their home communities across six continents.

Problem Statement

Domestic Violence, molestation and exploitation of children, sexual assault by strangers and familiar people, elder abuse, abuse of people with disabilities, bullying, trafficking: each span across all socioeconomic classes, everywhere in the world. What is the cause of this epidemic? Toxic messages embedded in our culture: women, children and people with disabilities are weak and deserve to be taken advantage of; women are possessions; children are commodities; there is nothing the small and weak can do against the big and strong. How do we root out this virulence? Inoculate at-risk populations with Empowerment Self Defense! ESD provides physical and mental techniques to counter the violence vulnerable populations are subject to. Students learn they are strong, have the skills to protect themselves and that they deserve full respect. Our students report up to 70% of attacks are averted after training. When assault cannot be avoided, survivors recover faster and are more likely to report perpetrators. ESD is trauma-informed and reduces barriers experienced by historically marginalized populations. It is a well-established methodology that can be taught in 10 hours by local teachers. We teach the teachers. Our plan is to further develop our infrastructure and expand our culturally sensitive teacher trainings worldwide. Our alumni will return to their communities as agents of change and create a cultural shift.

Solution Overview

A 2016 meta-study by the European Parliament Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs found women’s self-defense training to be the most effective gender-based violence prevention protocol. 15 years of anecdotal research at El HaLev on 60,000 participants indicates that ESD is also effective for children and other vulnerable populations. During the project we will dramatically increase both our staff and the number of trained members of vulnerable populations with effective tools for self-protection. We will train 1,500 ESD instructors over five years and support them to teach over 2,000,000 women, children and members of vulnerable populations in their home communities across six continents. In addition, we will continue to conduct research and develop ESD training protocols with a focus on the efficacy of ESD techniques and their cultural relevance for diverse populations. Publishing this research will raise awareness and studies will provide longitudinal evidence, development of testable hypotheses, and meta-analysis of all research in the field, about the need for and effectiveness of ESD. The first benefit of our program will be that 2,000,000 women and children will be able to assess dangerous situations, set healthy boundaries, and de-escalate conflict. They will have increased confidence and techniques to protect themselves physically and emotionally. We believe that ESD training will significantly improve the lives of the students we train and inspire grass roots movement that will develop well beyond our original scope. Empowered lives will create a cultural shift, and violence against the vulnerable will lose social acceptability.

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