Having survived a rape at 11 years of age in South Africa and driven by her belief that all women and teenage girls should be empowered and know how to defend themselves, Debi Steven has built her twenty-seven year career on empowering women and girls by teaching personal safety workshops to individuals, schools, universities and many blue chip companies and organisations.
In July 2013, she founded Action Breaks Silence to offer her training FREE of charge to women and girls at risk of sexual or gender-based violence in Africa, South Asia and the UK. In October 2014, Action Breaks Silence became a UK registered charity. The charity has already taught its “Empowerment and Personal Safety” workshops to over 34,000 women and girls in India and 9,000 women and girls in South Africa. In order to make this work sustainable, Debi has become a Trainer of Trainers to over 60 local instructors (40 in India and 20 in South Africa) to date.
Debi has also spearheaded Action Breaks Silence’s ground-breaking, preventative “Empathy” workshop for 10 to 13 year old boys which has already been piloted with 949 boys in South Africa and 191 boys in India.
Debi has both taught and completed instructors' courses in Canada, India, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the USA and is rated as one of the top self-defence instructors in the world. She is recognised as a senior self-defence and karate instructor by the International Self-Defence Federation and also trained in Canada with the world-renowned Richard Dimitri who, in recognition of her skill, confirmed her as the first UK affiliate of Senshido (www.richarddimitri.com). She has also trained on numerous occasions with the highly respected Dave Turton of Self-Defence International.
On 12 July 2016, Debi was given a “Point of Light” award by David Cameron, then the Prime Minister of the UK, in recognition of her “doing extraordinary things in the service of others … reaching thousands of girls and boys across India and South Africa and spreading the life-saving message of respect and support for women and girls”. In his letter to Debi, David Cameron wrote, “Through your hard work and dedication you are making our communities stronger, and our country a better place”.
In March 2015, Debi was the recipient of an “International Women of Change” award at the Indonesian Film Festival where “Power”, a documentary about Debi’s life and work by journalist and film-maker Jeanny Gering, was given a Platinum award.
Debi was a guest speaker at the WOW FESTIVAL (Women of the World) in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She was also a speaker at the International Day of the Girl Summit at the Southbank in October 2014.
In October 2014, she was a guest speaker at the annual conference for the North West of England’s annual Rotary conference. She has also been a regular contributor to BBC Radio, including an interview about her life on the BBC’s World Service, and most recently appeared on ITV’s “Good Morning Britain”.
Debi is a 5th Dan in Shotokan Karate and has two karate businesses in London, Funakoshi Limited and Pee-Wee Karate, with a total of over 750 students. Debi’s karate ethos was the inspiration behind the award-winning Kawaii Karate Lottie doll.
She has recently completed the first year of a Masters degree on Women and Child Abuse at London Metropolitan University, where she is studying under Professor Liz Kelly and Dr Maddy Coy.