The Ministry of Social Development has funded self defence classes for school-age girls since 2001, primarily through the Women’s Self Defence Network – Wāhine Toa. The Ministry commissioned two reports in 2014-16 looking at the effectiveness of self defence programmes for girls and women as a strategy for protection against violence.
‘Skills for Safety – Evaluation Report’, March 2016, by independent researchers Assoc. Prof. Jan Jordan and Dr Elaine Mossman of Victoria University of Wellington presents findings from an outcome evaluation of girls' and women's self defence courses run by the Women’s Self Defence Network – Wāhine Toa (WSDN-WT).
The research shows how successful defence courses for girls and women can be when taught by specialist trained and accredited female self-defence teachers with a clear empowerment approach.
Violence against girls/women is a major New Zealand problem with serious, sometimes fatal, consequences. The overwhelming health, social and economic impacts of violence against women have prompted a recent emphasis on identifying effective prevention strategies. Internationally there is now a sizeable body of evidence pointing to the value of self defence as such a strategy, including randomised control trials demonstrating reduced sexual victimisation following participation. This research aims to develop a better understanding of the unique role and impact of a New Zealand girls’ and women's self defence programme in responding to this problem.
The overarching objective of this evaluation is to understand and document the value and impact of self defence to the girls and women who participate in WSDN-WT self defence courses and to the communities they live in. More specifically, the research asks to what extent self defence courses can assist participants to:
- recognise sexual and family violence and abuse;
- understand that it is not okay (and not their fault);
- learn clear strategies for recognising, resisting and responding to specific violent/abusive events, disclosing abuse and seeking help, supporting other people who are victims of violence and abuse; and
- feel empowered and have their self-esteem enhanced.
A further aim of the project was to investigate the extent to which short term/intermediary outcomes, if achieved, can reduce vulnerabilities to child abuse, sexual and family violence and re-victimisation, and stranger danger.
An evaluation framework was developed by the independent researchers in collaboration with the WSDN-WT research team. A mixed method research design was agreed upon to assess the value of self defence for the two key target groups of WSDN-WT: (1) school age girls; and (2) women in the community.
Quantitative data were collected from a substantial sample of girls (n=2731) and women (n=115) who participated in a self defence course run in the first half of 2015, using pre and post course evaluation forms. These forms assessed the outcomes and experiences of the participants and included a mix of validated (e.g. Rosenberg Self-esteem) and programme specific questions (closed and open-ended).
These quantitative data were combined with qualitative data collected from a series of interviews. Four separate groups were interviewed:
- key informants/stakeholders for the Girls’ Self Defence Project courses (n=14);
- key informants/stakeholders for the Isolation to Empowerment women’s courses (n=15);
- women’s course participants (n=15); and
- WSDN-WT self defence teachers and chairperson (n=7).
Interviews were conducted in four case study areas selected to include a mix of rural/urban locations, and communities with different ethnic makeup (two South Island and two North Island).