Fighting Back: SheFighter empowering women in Jordan against abuse

SheFighterBy Rowaida Abdel Aziz

“Every day I see women underestimate themselves,” says Lina Khalifeh, a young entrepreneur from Jordan. “Many do not see the power they have inside to become amazing leaders. In these moments, I always start by sharing my favorite quote – ‘Speak up, even if your voice shakes.’”

Frustrated with the prevalent phenomenon of violence against women in the Middle East and around the world, Khalifeh decided to fight back.

In April 2010, she founded SheFighter, the first self-defense studio for women in Jordan and the Middle East designed to empower women physically and emotionally.

By offering various self-defense classes including kick-boxing, martial arts and more, Khalifeh sought to give women of all women the confidence and skills they needed to defend themselves in any difficult situation. With a black belt in Taekwondo 3DAN and more than 17 years of experience in martial arts, kick-boxing, Kung Fu and boxing, she certainly has the chops to do just that.

Since the launch of SheFighter Studio, Khalifeh has acquired an impressive number of achievements under her belt, including speaking at the European Parliament on International Women’s Day and winning several entrepreneurship and social business awards and funding to expand the franchise. She was also highlighted by President Barack Obama during his speech about emerging young entrepreneurs globally and was commended for her efforts to “help women live with dignity and safety.”

She talks to Elan about her journey finding SheFighter and her plans for the future.

Elan: What inspired you to launch SheFighter?

Lena Khalifeh: I started SheFighter because of the high rate of violence against women in the Middle East and around the world. One story that inspired me to take action and start training women for self-defense was because of my friend Sarah. She was constantly beaten up by her brother and father every day, and she would come to university with all these bruises. When I asked her why don’t you do something about it, she told me there was nothing that could be done. So I took the decision to start training women self-defense in the basement of my house in 2010. Two years later, I opened my own self-defense studio and called it “SheFighter.”

Elan: Why do you think self-defense is so important for women in Jordan?

LK: Jordan’s domestic violence is over 70 percent which is why it is important for women to build more self-confidence in themselves and build a strong voice in society.

Elan: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far since launching the organization?

LK: The first is winning first place at the women in business global award in 2011 and the second was being mentioned by President Obama in his speech. In May 2015, I was invited to the White house to attend the Emerging Global Entrepreneurship Conference. I didn’t know that the president was going to mention my name and Shefighter. When he did, and I was so surprised and happy at the same time, like a 10 year old kid at a surprise birthday! It was such a huge motivation reinforcing that women can become what they want and build their own dreams, whether men like it or not.

Photo credit
Photo credit

Elan: What are some of the challenges women in Jordan face when it comes to self-defense?

LK: Women are very dependent on men in everything in the society. They are afraid to take decisions and when it comes to their security. They believe that men will protect them, while in fact they are able to learn self-defense and confidence and learn how to deal with everyday life on their own.

Elan: What are your goals for expanding SheFighter outside of Jordan?

LK: I want it to go huge! I plan to expand all over the Middle East, Europe, Africa, America, Latin America and Canada. I can see SheFighter everywhere!

Elan: How do you feel SheFighter breaks the stereotypes of Arab women?

LK: SheFighter is a great concept for women to follow. It is founded by a woman, is doing a lot for women today and will keep supporting women throughout their journeys. Women are the foundation of society. When you educate women, you educate society.

Elan: What is the transformation like for these women from the moment they come to you until they complete the program?

LK: They become so different! They became stronger from inside and the outside. They share everything with me about their lives from their successes to their failures. They know that SheFighter is the place for them where they can achieve their dreams.

Elan: What is your favorite part about SheFighter?

LK: The women and their stories! They are my biggest motivation to succeed in this business.




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