Anti-Violence (Self-Defence) Training: a key aspect of prevention and self help for women and girls

January 1, 2001


This research is an exploratory study designed to analyse the development of women’s self-defence (WSD), provide an overview of current levels of provision, and explore the cultural and structural barriers that frame WSD across Europe. It also assesses the contribution that self-defence training makes to the prevention of violence against women and girls.

The data comprised of:

  • questionnaires produced in three languages (English, German and French) completed by 155 self-defence teachers;
  • a survey of government ministries in 17 EU countries;
  • expert interviews and country reports from project partners in seven EU countries.

Main Findings:

1. From the perspective of self-defence teachers WSD offers women a different and positive option in coping with the threat and reality of harassment and abuse, and challenges the stereotype of women and girls as passive victims of violence.

2. WSD facilitates women and girls to make new choices in their lives, including: setting standards about what is and is not acceptable behaviour; preventing harassment and abuse; supporting other women to also make challenges; leaving an abusive relationship; making violence public, and pressing charges or making a formal complaint against their attacker.

3. Self-defence teachers are highly qualified, but suffer from extremely poor working conditions, with hardly any being able to make a living from teaching self-defence.

4. There is considerable variation across Europe in the provision of WSD for women and girls. Only Germany is a strong provider for both groups, with all other countries classified as either moderate or weak.

5. WSD is most well developed in the German speaking countries and the Netherlands and least well developed in Scandinavia and southern Europe.

6. WSD is poorly supported and marginalised within wider violence against women policy developments.

7. Some evidence was found in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands that WSD is being increasingly recognised as a form of prevention, but this was not the case in most countries, and nor is it reflected at European policy levels.

8. WSD was found to be absent from all but one Plan of Action and/or prevention policy.

See Research Report: Achievements Against the Grain: Self Defence Training for Women and Girls in Europe

Grant holder: CWASU

Sponsor: The European Commission Daphne Programme

  • Project Team:
    Corinna Seith, Liz Kelly