Self Defense Initiative (SDI)

Gender Equality / Self Defense

Horizon’s Self Defense Initiative (SDI) was formed with a focus on a specific subset of feminist issues. We host workshops and discussions with experts, working to create a safer world for women.

According to member Hinah Mian, the motivation to start this initiative was because:

“I grew up in Pakistan which ranks 151 out of 153 countries on the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index Report by the World Economic Forum. I was thirteen years old when I came home from school to the news that another girl on her way home from school had been shot. Her crime? Pursuing her right to education. That girl was Malala Yousafzai and she had only been a province away from where I lived. Experiences like these instilled a tremendous passion about women's rights issues in me. However, I was unable to fully manifest my support for feminism. When I came to Sophia, I decided to further push for what I believed in and at Horizon I found a like minded and supportive team that was willing to embark on the journey with me. We decided to start with our immediate surroundings- the university. Thus, SDI was born out of a desire to make our campus feel more inclusive and safer as we all pursued *our* right to education."

Hinah E. Mian / Co-Founder / Team Leader SDI


Consequently, SDI's first activity, and indeed Horizon's, was a workshop in the spring of 2019 by self defense instructor Mr. Otsubo of DALF self defence in Tokyo. It aimed to enable participants to pre-emptively address sexual harassment through physical counter methods. By raising awareness about sexual consent, harassment, the law, victim-blaming, and encouraging participants to take action, our goal was to help our audience of college students feel safer on campus and in their everyday lives.


​​This was incredibly meaningful. Kanna Yamana who was crucial to in the organizing of the event shares 

The reason I joined SDI was because when I was in high school, I and my friends were often harassed on our way to and from school. It was also because of the experience when I was entering college and living on my own: one of my acquaintances was almost sexually assaulted and strongly advised me to live in a dormitory. From these experiences, I learned the importance of knowing how to protect myself and that victims of sexual assault tend to blame themselves. The most memorable part of the activities at SDI was the first event, a self-defense seminar. I learned that just by knowing how to protect myself, I can reduce the anxiety I feel in my daily life.

Regarding the significance of the workshop, Maya Suzuki Huisman expresses

I first joined the Self Defense Initiative during its first project, bringing self defense classes to Sophia University. Not only had I attended self defense classes before, but I also believed in the importance of boosting self confidence and sharing knowledge. By joining SDI in Horizon I feel as I am honoring the values that were shared with me, the values that I wholeheartedly believe in.

We were invited to present our initiatives at Sophia University’s Diversity Week in the fall of 2019. We adapted the scope of our mission since the arrival of COVID 19 in the face of a roughly 30% increase in domestic violence during quarantine. With people becoming more vulnerable to the issue, raising awareness became crucial. Thus, we hosted a Japanese webinar titled ‘Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence’ which featured representatives from two notable non-government organizations: SayaSaya Women’s Network and Asia Women’s Centre. By asking critical questions like "what are the appropriate steps to take if you were to find yourself in a DV situation and "what are some signs that could alert to someone being a DV situation and how can you help them? " we were determined to inform action against the issue.

One of the driving forces behind this project, Roran Kobayashi reflects:

I was raised in an abusive environment and household. Growing up, I believed all of these behaviors were normal, but after bringing such behaviors up to teachers, I realized that this was far from normal. This was when my personal research began, and I learned that there are other children and spouses, especially women, suffering similar situations. The thought that many are in these situations unknowingly was and still is a terrifying thought. Upon hearing the words “Domestic Violence” when introduced to the various projects of Horizon, I immediately knew that this was a project I needed to be invested in. In short, this my choice in this project was personal, and the webinar project was an extremely precious experience.

Each action that we have taken is stamped by tenacious and courageous young people who refuse this inequitable status quo. They are what SDI is all about.

Most recently, SDI members co-organized the fifth annual Virtual Tokyo Women's March virtually on January 23 2021 together with Sarajean Rossitto, social activist, nonprofit consultant and professor at Sophia and Temple universities, Democrats Abroad Japan, and Temple University's LEAD student group. There were 70 + guests in attendance and the event featured 7 guest speakers sharing actionable stories on themes of:

  • Youth Leadership

Rei Ando: Sophia University Refugee Support Group Member & 2019 Hult Pize Director

Misha Cade: Co-founder Speak Up Sophia

Naomi Sanyika Moore: Temple University Student and Leading in Equity, Acceptance and Diversity (LEAD) Member

  • Women in Business & Why Men Need Feminism

Annie Chang: Founder/President of AC Global Solutions & Founder/President of Women in Technology Japan

Shu Matsuo Post: Businessman and author of ‘ I took her name’.

  • Gender and Power

Linda Gould: Representative of Democrats Abroad Japan

John Baumlin: Chair of Democrats Abroad Japan

Our member Hinah also moderated the section on Youth Leadership. Maya who lead the team into this collaborative effort notes the impact of participating in demonstrations:

One of my best friends and greatest influences was a women my age who was absolutely passionate about gender issues and women's rights in university. She taught me a lot about the importance of recognizing my rights, standing up for myself, and being proactive on behalf of others. It was because of her that I began regularly joining discussions with peers, attending Reclaim the Night Marches in Manchester, and generally recognizing the injustices being perpetrated world wide against my gender. 

Our 5th member Romney has been a supportive ally since the inception of the project. He has consistently reinforced efforts in all activities, sharing that he joined SDI because:

I hate the thought of violence against women. I hate the idea that women can’t feel safe walking down the street at night. If we live in a world where men can’t behave decently, then women must be well-equipped to hold their own. My closest friends are all women, from every sort of background, and I should like to be there for them whenever possible, but no one can or should depend on others for everything, especially their personal safety. I want to know that nights I’m not out, homes I’m not in, no predator or abuser feels any more comfortable in his own skin. I should like to never worry, and know that everyone, especially people I love are safe and sure of it. I am proud to be a member of Horizon SDI and to continue supporting the women around me.