She took a self-defense class for blind women; now she’s a judo champion. For Janki Goud, the threat of rape has long loomed large.
In the state of Madhya Pradesh in northern India, where Goud lives, rape is among the most common crimes against women. The region accounted for 4,882 of the 38,947 cases of rape reported nationally in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
“We started self-defence and judo because the women living in this area with disabilities expressed so much fear that they could face abuse and attacks if they traveled unaccompanied outside their homes,” said Jayashree Kumar, Sightsavers program manager in Madhya Pradesh.
Goud, 23, is one of more than 8 million blind people in India, according to the international nongovernmental organization Sightsavers. Women and girls with disabilities face increased risk of sexual violence in India. But Goud says judo has transformed her life.
Goud is one of 200 women to benefit from a project providing judo and self-defense training by international nongovernmental organization Sightsavers, since it began in 2014.
“In my village, I did not have any problems because of my blindness,” Goud said through an interpreter. “But when I go to the neighborhood around, my movements are restricted. Then, when nobody is with me and I can’t see, some people try to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Goud lost her sight after contracting measles at age 5.
When she was first approached for the program in 2010, her confidence was so low that she barely spoke a word, according to organizers.
Today, she is something of a spokeswoman for the project. She has taken younger judoka under her wing and has competed in the sport on the international stage.
“I only started judo training for self-defense,” she said. “That was the main aim of the program. I didn’t have much knowledge in self-defense of judo when I started. The instructor motivated me and people like me who can’t see.”
Instructors were specially trained to teach girls with visual impairment, using physical touch and sounds, such as claps, as well as clear, easy to understand instructions, according to Sightsavers.
“The specially designed training program organized with the help of the Department of Crime Against Women and Madhya Pradesh police helped us build confidence in the visually impaired girls,” said Rakesh Singh of Tarun Sanskar, a local organization that works to empower women with disabilities in collaboration with Sightsavers.