People fleeing the war in Ukraine have found themselves facing new circumstances and numerous challenges, which they are trying to cope with. For many women, this is an especially difficult time, as they are often responsible for supporting and ensuring the safety of their families.

Selfdefense 1 WM

Women learn not only to defend themselves but also to discover new ways to build self-confidence. Photo © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023.

To help address some of the challenges faced by women refugees in Slovakia, IPčko, an implementation partner of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has designed a self-defence training programme for women aged 16 and up.

We designed the training primarily for female teenagers and women as they are the largest group among the refugees from Ukraine. Women in a new environment often experience stress in their efforts to take care of their loved ones and, at the same time, to protect them from danger, says Hana Pribilincová, one of the psychologists with IPčko who organises these training sessions at the Humanitarian Centre in Gabcikovo.

The goal of the programme is to provide women with a safe space where they can learn self-defence techniques, vent their emotions, process negative experiences connected with danger and uncertainty and build self-confidence. With the guidance of trained lecturers and the support of on-site psychologists, women can learn how to defend themselves, if needed. What’s more, they can also gain a greater sense of control over their lives, generate feelings of success and self-esteem and eliminate the feeling of helplessness associated with the war.

The practical exercises have a positive impact on the physical as well as mental health of participating women. Overall, this type of training is an effective tool for preventing the negative effects of stress, possible anxiety and depression and can make a positive impact on those who have been affected by the war and displacement.

With the support of: 

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U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.