RAJASTHAN: At first glance, Shivani Sisodia looks like any ordinary teenager. But when you see her train students in self-defense techniques in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, you realise the extraordinary in her.
As she trains a group of around 100 girls at Rajasthan Karatians School, the 18-year-old is a picture of concentration and confidence. Though a second-year student of BA, Shivani trains students in techniques which can protect them from eve-teasers and molesters. In two years, Shivani has trained over 1,500 school and college going girls in a range of self-defence techniques. How she started her initiative is linked to an episode that changed her life forever.
She was in the Class X and was returning home from school along with her friend when a few boys surrounded them and started passing lewd comments and tried to molest them. Shivani got scared and started screaming for help. It forced the boys to flee and Shivani and her friend escaped unhurt. When a traumatised Shivani shared her experience with her friends the next day, she was surprised to know that many girls had undergone similar experiences. When she asked them why they did not resist, most girls said they had no idea how to fight off the boys who were much older and stronger.
Shivani, the eldest of three sisters, then decided that she would never allow herself to be traumatised again. She decided to make herself physically and mentally strong so that she could teach a lesson to the “boys”. She went in for self-defence lessons. Her mother, a school teacher, and her father, a yoga trainer, also supported Shivani. Soon she enrolled at the Rajasthan Karatians School in Bharatpur. “I should be a stronger person to defend myself in any situation. I am blessed to have a wonderful trainer who has taught me basic survival skills and self-defence techniques,” says Shivani.
Her trainer Onkar Pancholi is the director of Karatians School Rajasthan who is a certified NIS martial art trainer and a black belt holder. He imparts free self-defence training to girls and women to help them fight harassment. He recalls how quickly she learnt most of the lessons. “Our school teaches girls some self-defence techniques. But Shivani’s skill levels surpass those of most teenagers of her age. She is also a national level judo player who won a silver medal two years back at a national tournament in Punjab. She also has a special style in training girls to combat eve-teasers and she gets deeply involved with her students,” says Pancholi.
Besides training students at her own academy, she holds special one-week and one-month courses in several schools and colleges in Bharatpur district. Pancholi and Shivani run women self-defence campaigns in the city to make women stronger. “The real challenge is that we have to train without resorting to any weapon. The first thing I teach them is to use their voice and scream the loudest because normally most girls just become silent when eve-teasers attack them.
Also, we teach them how to respond if somebody catches their hand and tries to molest them. I teach them to use their nails and teeth to attack. Once they learn basic tricks, most girls feel much more confident in stepping out of their homes,” says Shivani. Girls who train under Shivani say such techniques have raised their confidence level. “I used to feel nervous going out as I was scared of obscene comments on the way.
But now, I and my friends feel we can handle such harassment from eve-teasers,” says Pooja Faujdar who studies in Class IX. Another student Kushi Singh who studies in BA first year says reports of rapes and sexual assaults had terrified her. “After training I feel I can defend myself. I want to study a lot and will have to step out of my house. I feel confident about facing any situation,” says Kushi.
Shivani has also inspired her sisters to be more confident. One of them has become a judo champion while the other is a black belt in taekwondo. Shivani’s mother, Mithilesh Kumari, says she is happy to have such strong and sensible daughters. “My daughters are no less than sons. Shivani doesn’t give up till a trainee learns the art,” she says.