Thursday, 10 September 2015

We Are Siblings: Young Innovators Changing Lives

By Vania Santoso – Innovation Lab Youth Engagement Officer

The We Are Siblings graduation ceremony. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015.

“I was very close to giving up. I’m so happy I didn’t.”

This simple line recently brought me to tears. It was said by We Are Siblings member Cynthia Andriani as their pilot project ended in Bogor. She perfectly summed up the struggle and success these young innovators have experienced over the past few months.

We Are Siblings is an anti-bullying mentorship project created by students from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB). It won the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge earlier this year. The win meant We Are Siblings received a USD $2,500 grant from UNICEF to pilot their initiative.

The pilot saw a team of six mentors from the We Are Siblings team work with 29 children to find innovative ways of dealing with bullying. This was done both in-person and online. In-person sessions involved one mentor working directly with a group of children on anti-bullying modules. Online sessions complemented this, through daily contact via personal messaging apps.

An initiative like this is so important in Indonesia – as violence against children is pervasive across the archipelago. A recent UNICEF study “Hidden in Plain Sight” found that 40 percent of students aged 13-15 years report being physically attacked at school.

We Are Siblings concluded its pilot with a graduation ceremony. It provided an interesting insight into this project and showed how the innovators had literally changed the lives of these young students.

The day began with a role play about youths being bullied in different cases: verbal, physical, even on social media – showing that bullying can follow young Indonesians anywhere. For some children, there is no escape.

Shortly after, the youth told their individual stories about bullying and then discussed the theme “all children are unique and precious”. It reflected how We Are Siblings had helped participants build stronger self-confidence via their training modules.

“My daughter was always bullied, ranging from verbal to physical attacks, but she never directly shared this with me,” said Pak Nyoman Heru, a representative of the parents. “Once she joined this project, she became much more open in communicating her feelings and experiences with bullying.”

Another strong statement came from sixth-grade-participant Jabir Al Hayyan. “It’s been great to join this programme. I’m ready to pay it forward, extending the same support to my friends who get bullied,” he said.

A recap video of the pilot was met with big applause. “Future presidents, future pilots, future sports stars”: This opening text was followed with photos of children who had such dreams. The video highlighted how We Are Siblings had expanded participant’s self-image and goals.

The mentors had clearly developed very close relationships with each child. One mentor Nensi Sarina said, “You guys have really great goals in life, Sahrul who’d like to be a policeman, Alifa who’d like to be a stewardess.” “I really had fun with you guys, Mutia who is smart and polite, Nirwan who is fussy yet kind-hearted,” said Irsalina Nurin Oktafiani, showing a deep personal connection with each of the children.

The six mentors got on stage at the end of the event. All the children ran and brought flowers to them. Then Cynthia said those memorable words. Beginning a discussion on bullying seems like an easy enough concept. But this is exceedingly difficult in a country like Indonesia where it remains a very sensitive subject.

Piloting a new and innovative project has a lot of ups and downs, but this one paid off. And in doing so, it clearly lived up to the name: We Are Siblings!