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In Nairobi, Women Over 60 Are Studying Martial Arts To Defend Themselves Against Sexual Assault. Let’s Call Them Ninja Grannies

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The other day while talking to my best friend about all the things that she wishes for in the next guy she dates, she casually mentioned how she’d prefer a guy with a broad built, just so anyone even looking at her while walking with him would think twice before trying to casually get fresh with her. A thought that didn’t bother me much then, yet somehow stayed with me till long after, making me wonder just how many women out there, hope for their partners, their brothers or their fathers to be strong and sturdy enough to stand up to the bullies and harassers that we stumble upon almost on the daily. A subtle dependency that we’ve developed on our male counterparts to stay safe.

However, that’s not the case everywhere. A certain group of women (grandmothers, to be precise) in Nairobi, who are learning to become their own knight in shining armors, enough to keep themselves safe, sound and secure. With the crime rate in Nairobi increasing by the day, with little to no policing around to keep it in check, women have stepped up fend for themselves by learning and practicing martial arts for self-defense.

From women as old as 100 years to as young as teenagers, they are all gearing up to be self sufficient and protected, if something were to happen. Joining what is being called as the Ujamaa Karate program, also known locally as “Shoso jikinge,” or “Grandmother, protect yourself,” older women of the area, 60 years and upwards, have started training themselves in the confidence and techniques needed to protect themselves against and they are doing it in style.

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We need more women like these fierce grannies who are smashing stereotypes, setting a benchmark on how to be prepared at all times and leading by example.

According to Lilian Kasina, who runs the project monitoring unit at Nairobi Women’s Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre, it was revealed that one fifth of sexual assaults in Korogocho happen to women above the age of 60, owing to the myth that sex with an older woman could cure HIV. And perhaps that is why, this form of self defense is famous among elder women, who are no longer willing to give into the situation.

Ms. Waithiegeni, who joined the class after being sexually assaulted in 2013, shared, “The combat moves and morsels of knowledge we have learnt since joining the program have been passed on to even our granddaughters who are equally vulnerable.” She further went on to talk about how there, women are attacked in their own homes, and leaving their safety to chance is not an option for them.

Today, Ms. Waithiegeni is an instructor of the program herself, and admits to feeling proud and satisfied, watching her students (as old as women in their 80s) duck and punch and weave through a fighting set. Something we all can take way from, considering one’s safety is often in one’s own hand and if that hand is trained in martial arts, you get to leave unhurt but certain bruise a man and his ego in times of need.

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