A female boxer was tired of women in the Middle East being told they had to accept violence and abuse – and now, thanks to her, they can stand up for themselves.

That’s because SheFighter, an exclusively female martial arts studio in Jordan, is the first Middle Eastern organization that teaches women how to defend themselves.

Lina Khalifeh is the founder of SheFighter – and she says that when she first began the company, it mostly consisted of her and a few of her students in her parent’s basement. She eventually started partnering with local gyms in the area in order to host classes. Then, in 2012, she opened her own studio in Amman Jordan.

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Now, the organization has expanded to include 5,000 students of all ages and at least a dozen trainers. The center hosts classes for Syrian refugees, and SheFighter will soon be opening more locations in Saudi Arabia and possibly Kuwait, according to PRI.

The studio gives lessons in taekwondo, boxing, kung fu, and regular boxing, as well as psychological sessions and counseling.

Khalifeh herself has over 17 years of taekwondo experience under her belt. When she first began fighting at just 5 years old, she often got in trouble with her parents because she would get in fights with other boys in order to prove that she was as strong as they were. After she began formal training, she won over 20 medals in tournaments and championships.

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She then got the idea for SheFighter in 2010 when she learned that a close friend of hers was enduring abuse from her family members.

Since SheFighter has expanded, Khalifeh has been recognized by former U.S. President Barack Obama and has been named one of the most innovative, successful female entrepreneurs and “leaders of change”.

While the boxer says that she has faced an exhausting amount of obstacles and difficulties in order to bring SheFighter to fruition, it has all been worth it for the joy and confidence it brings her students.

“Now we’re getting more men who want to enroll their daughters to the training,” Khalifeh told PRI. “I’m really happy about it.”

(WATCH Khalifeh’s TEDx Talk below)

Click To Share With Your Female Friends (Photo by SheFighter)

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