Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Standing up against bullying

The We Are Siblings team uses innovative methods in their anti-bullying workshops. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Vania Santoso

A staggering 50 percent of Indonesian students aged 13-15 report being bullied at school. That’s one of the highest numbers in the world. Each of these children can face deep emotional scars which may last a lifetime. So a team of university students recently decided it was time to act.

Last year, five students from the University of Bogor (IPB) entered the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge with an entry that focused on addressing bullying in Indonesia. This competition asks young people around the world to solve pressing local issues with innovative solutions.

The students had an especially close connection to their subject. Team member Aldila Setiawati was severely bullied throughout school. “Luckily, I had my family to support me. But I often thought, what about the children with no support?” she says.

With this inspiration, the team created: We Are Siblings. Their project connects students at risk of bullying to various support networks – combining in-person and online support. “We know that bullying can possibly destroy a child’s future. We thought a support network could help stop this,” Aldila says.

In addition to other local teams from IPB Bogor and the Institute of Technology in Bandung (ITB), the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge attracted interest from six countries (including Zambia, Kosovo and Chile). In total, 45 innovative project ideas including 33 from Indonesia were submitted on topics ranging from hygiene to emergencies to violence.

Much to their surprise, We Are Siblings was one of two winning teams.

Next steps 

The win, which the IPB Bogor students shared with a team from Nicaragua, meant that the We Are Siblings project would receive assistance from UNICEF to organize a pilot. The team now had the opportunity to develop their idea further.

“Bullying has reached epidemic proportions in Indonesia,” UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Ali Ramly says. “The numbers are frightening: a recent study found that 55 percent of male students and 45 percent of female students in classes 7-9 were bullied at least once.”

“And the figures regarding violent bullying are particularly worrying,” he says. “8.2 percent of these students are bullied most often by being hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around or locked indoors.”

We Are Siblings represents an important step in finding new ways to address bullying. Their project perfectly aligns with the theme of the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge – How Can We Better Connect the Under-connected? It is essential to make sure no one feels alone when they are being bullied.”

We Are Siblings conducts an anti-bullying session with the support of UNICEF. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Vania Santoso

Since their win, the team has worked closely with UNICEF. We Are Siblings is currently being piloted around the Bogor area for a six-month-period. “30 children in four schools in and around Bogor are participating,” team leader Ayendha Kukuh Pangesti says. “We’re including students, their parents, teachers and other youth.”

The team held its first major session on May 30 with all participants in the pilot. This involved a set of training activities to discuss different forms of bullying and introducing students to their mentors.

“It was a good start to our project,” Ayendha says. “We have now launched the actual mentoring which is happened both face-to-face and through digital platforms. Progress is looking good.”

Once the pilot has finished, the team hopes to work with partners to spread the project elsewhere. “It’s not going to stop here. I dream of our project being replicated in many other places. So many children are in danger and we need to reach them,” Ayendha says.

UNICEF will continue to embrace the ideas of young innovators. We Are Siblings represents an important development in assisting the millions of children affected by bullying not just in Indonesia, but around the world.

For more information visit: http://wearesiblingsindonesia.org/

Source: Global Student-based Health Survey (GSHS).