Jordanian women and girls can now learn to defend themselves against abuse and violence thanks to SheFighter - the first women’s self-defence studio in Jordan and the Middle East.
Brainchild of Lina Khalifeh, the studio teaches a variety of martial arts classes including boxing and taekwondo and is a place for women and girls to feel empowered in a country where they struggle to be treated equally to men.
“Boxing has changed my life, not just physical-wise, but also psychological-wise,” instructor Batoul Jaikat told pri. “Here in Jordan, most of the girls wait for someone to help them — whether it’s her father or it’s her brother. She always waits for someone to take action. But here at SheFighter, we’re trying to change this.”
Khalifeh was always trying to prove that she was as tough as the boys growing up, so she started taekwondo training when she was five-years-old. After winning 20 national and international championships, her training was put on hold by a knee injury.
She never intended to teach self-defence, but after finding out that one of her best friends was being abused by her father and brother, she decided to take action. “It just pisses me off — the idea of women being hurt and they can’t do anything,” she told pri.
Khalifeh began teaching classes in her parents basement followed by partnerships with gyms. Despite facing a myriad of challenges, she was able to open her own studio in 2012.
“You have so many challenges,” she told pri. “First you’re a woman. Second of all, you’re a woman in business. Third of all, you’re starting something that is really new to the whole society.”
SheFighter became so successful that Khalifeh was honoured at the White House by President Obama in 2015, giving her the determination to expand her business. As well as setting up classes for Syrian refugees, Khalifeh is opening a studio in Saudi Arabia and has her eyes on Kuwait.
Although expanding SheFighter is increasing her recognition, teaching women and girls to defend themselves and become more confident still lies at the core of what she does.
“Now we’re getting more men who want to enroll their daughters to the training,” she told pri. “I’m really happy about it.”