Empowerment through Self Defense to become part of extra-curricular school programs in Albania


Team of first ESD instructors in Albania in 2020. Photo: UN Women Albania.
Team of first ESD instructors in Albania in 2020. Photo: UN Women Albania

26 October 2022 - The Albanian Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry for Youth and Children have officially committed to include Empowerment through Self Defense (ESD) classes in the extra-curricular programs of Albanian public schools. As a result of continuous lobbying efforts, ESD has now become part of the first National Strategy for Youth and its Action Plan 2022-2029 which was approved in October of the current year. This innovative approach addresses gender equality by helping build healthy interpersonal relations and empowers girls and boys.

During the past four years, UN Women, in collaboration with Empowerment Through Self Defense Albania and with the financial support of the Swedish government, have been introducing ESD all around the country. The support is ongoing and by the end of 2022, an initial pool of 60 teachers working in 60 public schools will have completed their training and will be ready to start applying the ESD methodology in the schools where they work. Going forward, the goal is for 200 schools across the country to become part of a wider network of educational establishments applying the same approach.

So far, 44 ESD instructors from all over Albania have been trained in the framework of a program that has reached out to thousands of girls and women through awareness raising campaigns. To date, ESD has been successfully piloted in nine schools, involving around 1,200 students during the 2021-2022 academic year. The findings of a study conducted in the schools where ESD was piloted, confirm that “school directors and the teachers involved, unanimously uphold the importance of introducing ESD as part of their programs of activities and they strongly believe that ESD represents a very practical approach to addressing bullying and violence-related concerns among young people in schools. At the same time, they think that this methodology can be easily adapted to a variety of educational contexts, based on the identified needs and concerns of a specific community.”

Empowerment through Self Defense is an innovative approach which aims to promote behavioral changes in communities, particularly in relation to issues such as gender-based violence, as well as a wider range of other issues. The more girls and young women become aware of their right to choice and freedom, the more they will be able to fully utilize their potential and power to demand their rights and stand for what they really want.