One of the worst dangers facing children in poor communities is violence (see Eye Witness News this week).

At the same time this week, a big boy pulled 8 year old Gracie by the hair in the Cape Flats, trying to force her into the bushes. She fought him off and got away.

“I did what I PROTECT ME taught me to do,” she said to her teacher in class the next day. I PROTECT ME (IPM) teaches children self-defence skills as part of the Life Skills curriculum in schools in the Cape Flats, Western Cape, South Africa.

IPM believes that 85% of safety is in our own hands and that self-defence is the first line of defence against attack.

Last month a six year old girl told us that she had bitten her stepfather, kicked him in the shin, and ran out of the house screaming, straight to the police station. He is now awaiting trial for attempted rape.

Every day we hear the children echo statistics: They say they want to feel safe, that is their priority.

According to the Centre for Violence and Reconciliation (2009) in South Africa a third of rapes of girls in schools is by teachers and other students and ‘jackrolling’ (gang rape) is regarded as ‘fun’ by two-thirds of boys questioned (Human Rights Watch 2001).

It is proved that teaching self-defence in schools decreases sexual attacks amongst adolescents (Journal for Adolescent Health, June 2013). A trial by IPM in 2014 proved that up to 1,500 children can be taught Self-Defence skills within 3 months as part of the Life Skills curriculum in schools.

Children have a right to safety. By teaching them resilience, respect and by empowering them to defend themselves against attack we are creating a new generation of young people who will not stand by if their friends are attacked and who, when they themselves are adults, as leaders of the future, will reverse cultural and sexual attitudes towards women and girls and the underlying causes of rape will be eroded. Rape feeds HIV/AIDS. By attacking rape we attack HIV/AIDS.

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