According to Kenyan authorities, crimes such as rape and sexual abuse have increased during the pandemic. This is likely spurred on by the lack of job opportunities or security amplified by the Covid-19 health crisis. This entices many young men to join gangs.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health has received reports of at least 5,000 sexual violence cases across the country, especially from poverty-stricken regions. Unfortunately, many of the community’s most vulnerable women are targeted, often by people who they already know and are close to, because they are seen as weaker. In response, a group of 15 elderly women in Korogocho, one of the biggest neighborhoods in Nairobi, have started learning taekwondo.
You can see the women, many of them grandmothers, walk slowly through the streets of Korogocho, a term which means “crowded shoulder to shoulder” in Swahili, to the taekwondo classes which take place twice a week at a local community center.
There, the women learn to punch with their bare hands by landing blows on sacks full of old clothes. The age range is between 60 and 80, however, the oldest woman in the class is Wambui Njoroge, who people believe to be around 110 years of age.
“You do not need a lot of energy it is just self-defense; just to protect yourself and run away. You do not necessarily have to defeat [the attacker], you just stun them and before they realize/stand up again, you get away,” explains the team leader and trainer 60-year-old Jane Waithaigeni Gabriel Kimaru.
As part of their training, the women are taught to vocalize their distress by shouting “No, no, no,” so nearby members of the public can hear them and help.
The classes empower women who would otherwise feel vulnerable to attacks. “When you look at me… you think this old woman is foolish, but you shall see who I am,” declares 72-year-old Esther Wambui Mureithi, a resident of the Korogocho slum.
“We have been well trained, and for that, we are not afraid anymore… if you’re still afraid the chances for the attacker are high, but if you are well trained you can defend yourself and the man will be afraid of you because you have been trained properly.”