James and Kathrin Otigbah have a vision: to teach children, adolescents and women self-confidence and fundamental skills in self-defence to prevent bullying and violence – including gender-based violence.
Origins in the region
The idea to offer courses in conflict management and self-defense came to James Otigbah in 2010 after a conversation with the director of the international school Le Rosey. He works in this area with the school. In 2012, he was asked by the NGO Innocence in Danger to develop a course for children who had been sexually abused.
As a safety specialist, however, he had a basic need not only to help children who had already been abused, but also to offer preventive care. He designed suitable prevention courses and initially offered them in the region. The Juga Saanenland-Obersimmental and other schools quickly followed in the footsteps of Le Rosey and Innocence in Danger.
Workshops in Kenya
During a two-year assignment from 2014 to 2016, when Otigbah worked as security officer for the Swiss embassy in Nairobi, he came into contact with Eunice Nuna. As a victim of abuse herself, she founded the Wounded Healers Foundation for sexually abused women, which she has been running since. Given the precarious situation in many African slums or rural areas, Otigbah offered to carry out his workshops there. To do this, he founded an NGO in Nairobi together with Eunice Nuna.
In summer 2019, the time had come: Otigbah and his colleague Chris Yumba travelled to Kenya to analyse the situation, select and instruct local trainers and carry out the first I Am My Bodyguard courses. They took place in a school and in a home that cares for sexually abused girls. A total of 100 children from both institutions were trained. At the end of November, they travelled to Kenya again to teach another 1,000 children.
Kids for kids principle
The prevention courses of the Swiss and Kenyan associations are currently financed by donations. However, the Otigbahs are working on building a self-supporting model, for example according to the kids for kids principle: The courses are offered to schools and clubs that can afford to pay for them. This income in turn will finance workshops for children from poor backgrounds in Kenya.
Security in the Saanenland
The workshops that train young people basic safety behaviour deserve a permanent place in the region. The content and duration of the courses are adapted to suit the ages and interests of the children and last between three and six hours. The programme includes conflict management on all physical themes: drugs, especially alcohol and smoking, rape or knife attacks. In the more compact courses for elementary school students, bullying is discussed first, before moving on to the second part, which deals with defense techniques when there is a danger to life and limb.
Based on AvS / Sonja Wolf
Translated by Justine Hewson