Bullying affects the majority of children and youth across the world and has a devastating emotional and psychological impact on them. Young people in Romania take action to find solutions to tackle this issue with the support of Terre des hommes and its partners.
With a ‘violence against children' hat on, think about "What would you like to change in your community?". This was the challenge for a group of young people from Romania, taking part in a project entitled "Plan Z", which is a global initiative that seeks to create child-led innovation hubs and engage children in developing solutions to tackle violence against children.
"Bullying is extremely common and comes in many forms, thus people often do not acknowledge it and don’t take action against it", says Sofia, a 17-year old girl from Bucharest. In Romania, three out of ten children are threatened with beating and kicking by their peers and one in four has been humiliated in front of their peers according to a Save the Children study. "I think that the school is the most prone environment for bullying; it can start with offensive language and end with suicide inducements", adds Arlett, a 16-year old girl from Vaslui County.
Arlett and Sofia are part of "Plan Z" and, together with the other young participants, they themselves have chosen bullying as a form of violence they wish to reduce in their schools and communities. "The young people show a profound understanding of the bullying phenomenon, as well as high enthusiasm regarding their active role in combating it", says Paul Bercea, our Regional Child Protection Adviser for Europe.
Through incubation and design thinking workshops, the young people came up with multiple solutions to this issue and selected three for further development:
- Forum Theatre – students will put on a school play addressing various forms of bullying. The Forum Theatre methodology implies that students from the audience will be encouraged to suggest and act themselves different actions during the play, in an attempt to change the outcome of what happens on stage.
- Feedback Box – install a box in schools, where students can leave feedback on their experience with bullying and relationships with colleagues. As a result of analysing the messages, the school psychologist will organize a set of individual and group activities for those who bully and those who are bullied.
- Role Playing – students will design different real-life situations, where the role of bully or being bullied are explored, in terms of what the person feels and thinks and how he/she reacts in both contexts. These situations will be "played" by groups of young people in schools and art clubs, having as well the support of a psychologist and other experts.
These learning experiences will help children and young people to gain a greater awareness of the bullying phenomenon, improve their reaction to it, develop their emotional and communication skills, and finally to reduce the number of bullying cases in schools.
The group of young people thoroughly worked on strategies to implement these projects in their schools, defining objectives, target groups, partners, resources needed, risks and other important aspects. "Being involved in Plan Z, I feel like I can make a change.My opinion counts and I’m being taken seriously", states Sofia. "Our next challenge is to share this information with our colleagues and actually start testing and carrying out our projects", continues Arlett. After putting the finishing touches to their ideas during the summer time, the young innovators will launch the projects in their schools in September.
"Plan Z" is an initiative of Terre des hommes, World Vision, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Plan International who decided to work together to end violence against children. The experience in Romania is one piece of the global puzzle and will contribute to the development of a working model of meaningfully involving children and empowering them to innovate for ending violence against children.