The idea of MukkaMaar was born in February 2016, with a free self-defence class for just 5 girls from a slum area next to a beach in Mumbai. After the initiative received extensive media coverage and changed the lives of close to 400 girls; MukkaMaar came into existence as a public trust in June 2018.
“This is Ishita Sharma. I’m an actor, and dancer, and run a school for performing arts in Mumbai, Aamad. There I started learning martial-arts, kalaripayattu & Kung-fu, and saw myself get stronger, fitter and much more confident. Moreover, before I realised, I was less afraid; less afraid of eve-teasing, of travelling alone at nights (which is unavoidable for me), less afraid of speaking my mind, of making a noise when need be… the list is endless.
On a fateful night in 2016, I happened to watch a disturbing documentary about one of the many rape-cases in India. It left me sleepless and restless, pained and helpless, and very, very angry. I’d been a feminist for a long time; fighting sexism from family and neighbours, but this time it was different. I was suddenly thinking of myself as only a small part of the society I live in, and the realisation struck that I am suddenly empowered to share what I felt with the rest, who have held back and let themselves be told that they are not. Especially with girls of the future generation.
Thus began the journey of MukkaMaar. I along with my kung-fu sir, Mr. Alex, decided to just start teaching self-defence to as many school-going girls as possible. But we didn’t want to do a 1-day/ 1-week camp, we wanted to be very sure that girls who learn with us will be given the level of training where they remember and are able to use it, for a lifetime. The very next weekend, we started a self-defence class on Versova beach, in Mumbai. We started with 5 girls (age 5-15) and within a few months, the number grew to 10, 20, 40, 80, 100… This was in Feb 2016.
By 2017, the girls on the beach decided to enter into competitions. To our utter surprise, everyone who participated, won! We couldn’t even believe what was happening. It wasn’t so much about the competitions, as it was about the mindset. When I took the girls there, they didn’t have uniforms, I gave them my shorts, but they thought they were short, so cut up their brothers’ pants and wore. They had no experience with gloves or mouth guards. But just a year of training gave them this unshakeable confidence! That they could do anything. And they did.
The girls told me ‘didi baaki girls kyun nahi sikhti, MukkaMaar ki team ko bada karo na.’ (Why don’t other girls learn this, make the MukkaMaar team bigger).
So, in 2017, we made some changes to the program, and brought it to a Municipal school, teaching 300 girls in 6th, 7th, and 8th standards. The MukkaMaar period became like a compulsory activity for girls; to be done twice a week (utilising the PT period) and during school hours.
With the new changes, we could envision MukkaMaar spreading across the whole nation. I was excited to see how the world around me would change, if that were to happen! Imagine, if every girls was safe. If every girl was strong. If we all supported each other. If schools taught this like they teach Math. If girls aspired to do push-ups, and punching. If we were never scared. If one could walk on the road without covering our breasts. If we don’t freeze the next time we are touched. If our reflex is to defend, not be numb. If we can stand up not just for ourselves, but accompany our brothers and friends and protect them. What if they start tying a rakhi to us?
The visual was too grand to say no. And so, in June 2018, MukkaMaar became an official non-profit organisation; as the key initiative of Ishita Sharma Foundation, registered as a Public Trust.
The news of the registration came along with an official tie-up with MCGM (Municipal Corporation of greater Mumbai) to bring MukkaMaar to all girls in 6th, 7th and 8th across their 1100+ schools.
But our work has only just begun. We have not even scratched the surface.
There are ~25 million 11 to 14 year old girls in India, who do not have the skills to defend themselves. We hope to reach all of them, in this lifetime.
If you have ever envisioned a world that I have, it’s time to say hello, and join the cause. Use a hashtag, post a picture, share this page, write to us, speak to your boss, donate, volunteer, speak to girls, give a lecture, speak to a government, plan an event, or just write some encouraging words to us; anything helps. The journey will be tough, but thoroughly enjoyable, I assure you!”