“For some women, playing sport is a victory in itself”
“Being involved in charities has always been a natural thing for me. Even before the end of my Karate career in 2006, I wanted to transmit knowledge. I wanted to show that behind the champion, behind the medal, there is a career, values, and experience to share. But it was the people I met who guided me. The first meeting in 2005, when I was studying in l’ESSEC, happened in Kabul, Afghanistan. I spent a month with young Afghan women. I taught them karate. Above all, I discovered the inequalities that women in some countries are subject to. Some of them took enormous risks to try karate. They put their lives in jeopardy. Later, one of them taught in her turn. She received death threats. All this made a big impression on me.
A few years later, in 2013, another meeting influenced my career. I met Dr. Mukwege, Nobel Peace Price, know as “the man who heals women” in his country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I listened to him. I was upset by what he had to say. Shocked. I discovered that rape could be a weapon of war. I became aware of the situation and the plight of the women who were victims of this. My engagement in sport has always been oriented towards emancipation, self-confidence and reconstruction through physical activity. It seemed natural to meet these survivors, to try to help them and to continue my action. In partnership with la Maison Dorcas, hosted by Panzi Fondation, on the shores of Lake Kivu, I set up a weekly program based on karate and football taught by a Congolese educator. 20 out of the 45 women housed at the foundation got involved in the program. At the end of the second year, three of them told me that they wanted to teach karate in their villages, to help their mothers, sisters and relatives escape from suffering the same fate. I think I helped them to regain confidence and recover their bruised bodies.
This experience encouraged me. In 2017 I founded my own association, Fight for Dignity. I still intervene in the DRC. Since last spring, I have also been helping the team at the Maison des Femmes in Saint-Denis, in the outskirts of Paris. Working with the team, I combine research and action in the field. I want to go further, to measure the impact and effectiveness of practicing karate and to implement an accessible and adapted methodology. Together with a research team from the University of Strasbourg, we are working with a group of 24 women, with first results in 2020. We’re starting small, advancing step by step. On Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to gain more resources for my association.
For all these women, sport should become a pride. The pride of being a karate practitioner, the pride of teaching it. Like us champions, they in turn become role-models. They are survivors. The impact on their local communities can be considerable.
My commitment with Peace and Sport, among the Champions for Peace, is part of this initiative to use sport as a tool for reconstruction and emancipation. I will accompany Didier Drogba, the Vice-President of the organization to Larnaca Bay in Cyprus on March 19. In Pyla, the only village in the country inhabited by Cypriot communities of Greek and Turkish origins, I will run a karate session for women and children in the community. My sporting career is now far behind me, but the desire to transmit has never left me. I want to share. With women. For women.”