We are Elsabe and Anjali, students at EUC and volunteers for FairFight. FairFight is a unique charity that centres around martial arts as a vehicle for women’s empowerment, with projects in Zimbabwe and India. Martial arts creates a shared space for women and girls to unite, build skills, enhance their confidence and create a safe space.
Importantly, FairFight works in partnership with local martial arts trainers and dojos. Through this, they aim to support, assist, and strengthen the communities where the projects are. The charity is supported by volunteers only, ranging from those with martial arts expertise to those simply passionate about helping. FairFight believes that martial arts are a unique and effective road to women’s empowerment and a shared language to build trusting relationships within communities. Run by a three-person executive board that overlooks strategic decision making and finances and coordinated five operations teams, FairFight is headed by our beloved lecturer, Dr Ginie Servant-Miklos.
There are currently two FairFight projects in Zimbabwe, one with Nagle House girls in Marondera and a new partnership with the Mbare Karate Club. The first project has been operating since 2015 and consists of Shito Ryu karate classes. The collaboration with the Mbare Karate Club (they practice Shorin-Ryu) started in 2020 and focuses on providing women’s self-defence training and support in creating safe spaces for women’s martial arts practice. FairFight assists in providing necessary equipment, support for karate competitions and gradings, and a scholarship program covering school fees for selected girls each year while also connecting the scholars to FairFight mentors abroad. They also provided extra help during the pandemic, such as sending food packs to families in need.
Elsabe specifically helps with the Mbare project, along with Myrthe Minnaert and Charlie Stevens. This dojo in Mbare has been open to the community for many years; FairFight now supports the girls who train there. So far, self-defence classes have started for the girls. Additionally, every few months, FairFight will host days filled with seminars and karate activities. The next day will be in June and is dedicated to menstrual and sanitary health awareness. As a Zimbabwean, she helps with the practical aspects and tries to visit the dojos as much as possible. As she has no karate experience, her focus is on organising and assisting other ways to support the projects.
From her time volunteering with FairFight, she has seen the widespread positive impact the projects have had on the Zimbabwean girls. She hopes to see FairFight continue to grow and is excited to play her part in their journey!
The project in India has been operating since July 2016. In partnership with AshaDiya Foundation and the International Shotokan Karate Federation of Uttar Pradesh, FairFight provides fully funded martial arts training to 21 girls that are part of this program. FairFight hosted weekly meetings virtually throughout the pandemic and helped distribute food rations and medical supplies to parts of rural India. The project is also collaborating with Red Brigade, a women’s support group that has grown as the problem with sexual crimes in India becomes more visible.
Due to the language and cultural barrier, communication regarding sexual assault/intimidation communication may not always be clear. As a volunteer, Anjali attends weekly meetings with Mary and attempts to provide the best possible translation to enable an effective dialogue. She hopes to support communication to the best of her ability throughout the sessions to add value for the lovely students!