More than 20 traditional martial arts clubs from Australia and the United States – including Lane Cove Taekwondo, on Sydney’s North Shore – are throwing their collective weight behind a unique project designed to empower women.
The Pink Belt Project gives women in need – especially those who have experienced domestic abuse and/or sexual assault – a one year scholarship, allowing them to train for free at their local martial arts club.
The project, which began two years ago, is now more relevant than ever, with domestic violence escalating during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology.
The scholarships have been funded through a mixture of crowdfunding and the donation of time and services from martial arts instructors such as Fabian Peters from Lane Cove Taekwondo, who has agreed to cover fees for membership, uniforms and belts for a selected scholarship recipient.
“Domestic violence, trauma, poverty, social isolation, eating disorders and bullying all have the potential to leave a woman feeling disempowered,” said Peters.
“Taekwondo offers women confidence, empowerment, increased leadership potential, healing and community. It is not just an exercise – it is a sport.
“If we can remove the financial barrier by offering this scholarship and help get someone in need … this to me embodies the true meaning of martial arts.”
Pink Belt Project coordinator Nadine O’Regan, a member of Lane Cove Taekwondo, said her personal experience showed the benefits of martial arts for women.
“After having children, I suffered severe post-natal depression, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Taekwondo was literally lifesaving for me and I will be grading for my black belt in December,” she said.
“I wanted to share the benefits of taekwondo with another woman and was very excited when [Peters] agreed to offer a scholarship. I am looking forward to supporting our recipient on her path to black belt.”
The Pink Belt Project began in 2018 when West Australian mum Kristy Hitchens discovered the benefits of taekwondo, after taking up the sport at the age of 40.
She found it provided health and wellbeing benefits beyond self defence, and saw how the training helped a friend impacted by domestic violence. She then went on to develop a model that could encourage more women to participate by removing financial barriers.
Twenty women are undertaking the program this year, and organisers want to help “as many women as possible” in 2021.
Applications for 2021 scholarships are currently open, and close on Monday, 14 November.
For more information or to make a donation visit www.pinkbelt.com.au.
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