In the words of Gjeline Doda: “We should raise strong girls and well-educated boys in order to have a strong society”
Gjeline Doda, from Lezha, northwest Albania, is one of the first educators in Albania certified as an Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) instructor in 2021. Apart from teaching high school math, which she has been doing for almost 15 years, she is now working to empower and teach personal safety to a new generation by boosting students’ self-esteem and communications skills to prevent and mitigate the risk of violence. UN Women supported the training of 24 teachers and educators across the country by ESD Global Self-Defense and local partner Aikido Albania, with funding from the Government of Sweden. This innovative methodology was integrated in extra-curricular school programmes in Albania in 2022, and so far it has reached 56 schools across the country.
“The first ESD lesson with the students was awkward, but when they started to go deeper into the session, they engaged in the games, initiated discussions, and opened up. I was surprised the next day when in another class they were asking to have the same training. Word spread and everybody was looking forward to joining this new experience.
I use this methodology when I notice students are having issues. They trust me and this feels good, especially when I can help teenagers deal with their problems and emotions. I have noticed that students now express themselves more freely, define their boundaries and communicate more. Violence is no longer their first choice. They look more at peace. These success stories inspire me every day to continue working with them.
I think that the ESD training should be made available to all teachers and not only to head teachers or those teaching physical education, as it is a very efficient tool for managing a class. Through this methodology, you can identify right away if one of your students has an issue. You learn how to approach them and build effective communication, and as such prevent conflict or uncomfortable situations in the classroom. It is important that we first understand them, be open-minded and not judge, but ask them about their feelings. We cannot teach them what to do because different people need different solutions.
It would be great for children to have these classes at an early age, in elementary school, so that they can set their boundaries and also respect the boundaries of their peers. They will grow up healthier in all aspects. We should raise strong girls and well-educated boys in order to have a strong society. Our daughters should know their rights and grow up to become strong women that are never silent in the face of injustice. To achieve this goal, Empowerment through Self-Defense is a great methodology and serves as a great tool for every educator.
This methodology has had an impact on parents as well, who write to me constantly expressing their gratitude and satisfaction. We have organized a meeting with the mothers to present them with the ESD and they were impressed. It served to remind them to be more careful and more attentive with their children by giving them more space to express themselves. They have requested to have meetings with fathers as well, so that they can better understand their children’s feelings.”