The 30-year-old Ahmed, who tens of years later cannot forget the wounds bulling has left with him in his soul, despite the successful career he achieved after graduation and said, “I’ve been bullied all of my school years about my weight, I was always mocked, called ‘the big ball’ and being laughed at for eating much more than my peers do.” In an attempt to stand against bullying, and fighting all sort of violence, the UNICEF launched Egypt’s first social campaigns seeking to end peer to peer physical and psychological violence.
The campaign comes in cooperation with the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), Ministry of Education, and Technical Education (MOETE) and funded by the European Union (EU).
Through a series of social media videos, capture UNICEF Egypt ambassadors and Arabs’ most favourite celebrities, Ahmed Helmy and Mona Zaki, in which they share their experiences of bulling, seeking people’s help to prevent their children from going or being the cause of such a thing, the campaigns aim to raise people’s awareness of how bulling is a type of violence that leads to depression and exclusion among children.
Ahmed, who is currently an engineer and considered a successful young man, “according to the society criteria” as he describes, is still fighting to recover from the depression caused by peers bullying him when he was in elementary school.
“I used to laugh at what they say just to look cool and fit in,” he remembers, “but soon after, you start believing all of the things being said about you. You start seeing yourself as a ‘monster’ because that is the one constant word you hear at school for eating too much, and not so long after, you pretend that you do not care just to avoid the pain.”
Despite leaving school for over 15 years, bullying still remains a huge struggle children brutally face in schools, and often, not speak about.
“This campaign urges children, parents, and caregivers to speak up against bullying in educational and non-educational settings, and seek guidance from trained professionals,” says Azza Al Ashmawy, secretary general of the NCCM.
Al-Ashmawy explained that the national Child Helpline 16000 that provides 24/7 support and is also an active channel to report severe cases in which the safety of a child is at risk.
The published videos encourage children and adults to raise their voices against bullying they had gone through in their lives, with the hashtag #IAmAgainstBullying.
“No child should experience the anxiety and hurt that bullying puts them through!” she asserted.
The one month campaign comes after a recent study conducted by the UNICEF and the NCCM, which show that schools are the second highest place children face violence at after home.
The study shows that 29-47% of children, at the age of aged 13-17, are reported that physical violence among peers was commonplace.
The UNICEF also stated that according to itslatest global data, slightly more than 1 in 3 students aged 13-15 around the world experience bullying. While girls and boys are equally at risk of being bullied, girls are more likely to become victims of psychological forms of bullying and boys are more at risk of physical violence and threats.
“Bullying disrupts the right of children to play and to learn. All children will benefit from a culture that refuses and speaks up against bullying, and keeps them safe from harm,” stated Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt.
“We are optimistic that national efforts to prevent and respond to violence in and outside schools will continue to be enhanced by our partners,” he added.
“With the launch of this campaign, we are witnessing the continuation of national efforts to end all forms of violence against children in Egypt. We support these efforts through different programmes the EU funds in the country, specifically, through the project Expanding Access to Education and Protection for At Risk Children,” said Ambassador Ivan Surkoš, head of the European Union delegation to Egypt.
“It is essential for the wellbeing and development of children to invest resources and efforts to secure a safe learning environment for all girls and boys, an environment that is free from peer to peer bullying at school and elsewhere,” he added.