Amir Al-Awad is a Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder who balances training and a job with running the Syrian Sports Academy in Alexandria, Egypt.
His self-defence classes for women have been extremely successful in giving women in his community practical skills and self-confidence.
Amir is also now offering the classes as an Airbnb Olympian Experience to guests around the world. You can set up your own Experience with our support.
Women are the first homeland for human beings: they are the originators of life, and the first teachers. Therefore, women need to be strong.
But unfortunately, because of war and ignorance in my part of the world, society stopped valuing women as they are supposed to be valued. Women are being harassed, verbally and physically, and there is not enough monitoring or rules to give the women back their rights in the male-dominated society we are living in.
We kept hearing about women’s rights conferences, but we did not see any improvement. There were lots of ideas being discussed, but nothing concrete was taking place. That’s why I decided to start giving something practical to women, so that they can stand up for themselves and overcome their fear of venturing into the streets.
Teaching practical skills
The Syrian Sports Academy started a movement where we encouraged other clubs and academies in Alexandria to give women one week free of charge to learn self-defence and fitness. It was a form of using sports to teach women, and we wanted to give them the chance to do this for free – because for a majority of our participants, they don’t have the financial means to take part in any sort of fitness classes.
The people who come to the classes are not athletic. They are regular, ordinary people, and the majority of them don’t have the physical fitness to do really technical moves. So we use role play to show them the scenarios that could happen to them in the street – for example, how to spot a person who is harassing them or trying to rob them, and how to react.
We also provide a hotline or contact number that we give to the women who take the self-defence classes, so that if they’re in a certain situation where they need help, they can call our Academy and ask us to be there for them.
Physical and mental benefits
When encountering situations that were dealt with during the classes, some of our participants have managed to react in a better way through the teaching they have received. I was happy to see the idea put into practice and bearing fruit, with people benefiting from it.
They also gain self-confidence through the classes, and the first thing they gain self-confidence from is finding out that there are people who care about this cause of preventing violence against women, and are advocating for this cause. This is the trigger for them to start believing in themselves.
I believe that women are not weak; they just don’t know how to react in a certain way, because they haven’t discovered their full potential. But through these classes, they start to see the strength within them.
THE GOOD THING ABOUT THE AIRBNB EXPERIENCE IS THAT IT’S INTERACTIVE. YOU’RE NOT JUST GIVING A CLASS ONLINE TO PEOPLE; THERE IS AN INTERACTION BETWEEN YOU AND THE PARTICIPANTS.
Reaching a new audience through Airbnb Olympian Experiences
Airbnb Olympian Experiences has provided me with another platform to spread the message. My Experience lasts 90 minutes, is delivered in Arabic and/or English, and can host up to 10 people per session. I hope the sessions can raise awareness around violence against women by providing teachings on how to protect yourself.
The good thing about the Airbnb Experience is that it’s interactive. You’re not just giving a class online to people; there is an interaction between you and the participants. And the fact that you have people from different parts of the world, and not just from your country, is an added value.
For example, there was a Chinese woman who is living in Great Britain who attended the Experience with me. She had an injury in her lower back but I worked with her for around an hour and a half to show her moves that she can do regardless of her injury. For me, this was something good about the Experience: that it’s opening up different opportunities, not just in Egypt but around the world. By sharing my experience with the world it might inspire others to overcome obstacles in their own life.
To find out how you can set up an Online Experience like Amir, and receive support and mentoring from Airbnb and Athlete365, click here