“Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.” ― Donna Schoenrock
When I was in high school, the very basic subtle question among freshmen was “how do I fit in?”. That question, without even being asked, was something everyone seemed to try so hard to achieve, even that hard. Fitting in seemed to be the main core about what school life was all about. It’s like, if you didn’t fit in, you weren’t there.
Some people said high school life was remarkable because of it. Getting friends, being popular, hanging out, falling in love, having parties, mass cheating during exam, the sports, the classes, the studytours, the yearbook-in-the-making, the graduation, those were like puzzles we had to collect for the next three years.
But as these young people were trying to fit in by gathering into peer groups and stuff, some other found themselves unmatched with all the groups. When it was all about in-group and out-group, then the ones who were outside were just strangers and weirdos.
This was when bullying started. I did feel how bad it was to be picked on. Name-callings were the worst. It was the time when I found myself wondering why I was so differentiated than the rest. Imagine you lost your feeling of secure and authority of your own bag as it could be sometimes vanished and found but you need to be laughed at first. Imagine when you didn’t have a gut to tell them that you fed up, but you didn’t, or couldn’t, fight back. Imagine when everyone surrounding was just watching instead, and sometime whispered you, I pity you. Should I really have to blend in even though it meant I had to be someone else?
Well long story short, I graduated from high school and concluded that I wouldn’t let bullying ruin myself again. I had read stories about bullying cases out there that were even worse. Even let the bullied being suicidal, even let the bullied being a sudden cold-blooded killer shooting everyone in school with guns and stuff. And worst of all, it was, and is, going like a circle. Bullied people, although not entirely, tend to be a bully as they feel the need to transfer it to the weaker-so-called kids in order to make themselves feel better.
Meanwhile, lack of attention from the education system makes bullying such an iceberg effect. Teachers are more concern on academical performance because it’s all what the system needs at the end of the year. Character building, including tolerance and acceptance, is not taught anyway. Picking on someone seems okay, even it seems cool. I gotta tell everybody in this world, from my very subjective conclusion as a consent survivor: bullying is terrible and it needs to stop.
But first of all, you need to take control of yourself.
After graduating, I got into university, majoring law. I joined Global Citizen Corps Indonesia, a national network concerning on empowering youth on raising awareness towards global issues. I picked human rights as my issues, bullying and LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer) to be focused.
In the early 2012, I initiated a project named Hari Bebas Bully or Bully Free Day (BFD), a one day workshop where youth were gathered and made to feel safe enough to put a dialogue about bullying happening in their community or school, have FGDs, watch movies, and even we had a counselor helping us building the curriculum and stuff.
The aim was to encourage youth to stand against bullying, gave them strength by telling them that everyone was born free and equal in dignity and rights; their human rights;that it’s okay to be different and no one could ruin them without their consent. We also wanted to make a space where youth could discuss the each types of bullying, found out what the similarities among them all, and came up with applicable solutions. By giving them awareness, we hoped that after they had gone back to their own community, school, or university, they could be the one who set the light and be the change they had been wanting to see: creating one more day free of bullying, starting from themselves as an individual or groups.
At first, me and the team only meant to make it once, just for a basic step for raising awareness among youth in Jakarta. But as people asked us to make it sustainable, and we thought it was a good idea as well, we have been so far doing five workshops in different places. Every place had their own little story, so here’s the breakdown:
1. BFD at Mercy Corps Office, Jakarta (February 4th, 2012)
In this first workshop, we invited 20 youth aged 17-21 from universities and high schools from Jakarta and surround. We introduced human rights concept at first, about the history, what they were, and why they were important. After that, Indri Hapsari, our counselor, filled the main session explaining what bullying was and how to stand up against it.
We didn’t forget to put forward LGBTIQ bullying and it resulted thoughtful discussion among them. The discussion included gender biased themed, Kinsey scale, sexual orientation, and stuff. We also watched movies, did a case studies inside focus group discussion, realizing that even in school and university there was a subtle kind of bullying called seniority. At the end of the workshop we recorded them for anti-bullying campaign video on YouTube, for sustain advocacy, as you can see below:
2. BFD at SMP Negeri 133, Pramuka Island (March 24th, 2012)
This anti-bullying workshop was collaborated with my friend’s traveling-while-doing-social-actions project, Exploring The Island. Here we held a workshop at the one and only junior high school in the island, two hours away from Jakarta mainland. There were 40 students aged 13-15. This time me and the team were pretty independent as we presented all the material by ourselves. We had been afraid of language barrier. Furthermore we had not known at first what the problems faced. Later on we got that in this small island, bullying took a place in the form of extortion, which we had to consult to the educator. We encourage the kids to be aware of diversity awareness, sang-a-long, and wrote a letter of truth.
3. BFD at Sekolah Master, Depok (April 10th, 2012)
Sekolah Master is a school held by Yayasan Bina Insan Mandiri, a foundation concerning in education for disadvantaged youth who were living and working on the streets, bus and train stations, or simply just unschooled because of economic factor. There were total 30 youth ranged 15-18 year old. We did a different approach as we found the different characteristic of students here. Most of them had been living roughly on the street, so much different experience and types of bullying as well. It was actually complex and intriguing at the same time.
Beside doing a regular curriculum, we challenged them to crumple a piece of used paper and asked them to stretched it again just to show them that the act of bullying might be nothing to do physically, one might be forgiving that after all, but the mental injuries left in the heart was something that would never easily healed. It remained wounded, just like those paper that would never be as delicate as they were before had been crumpled.
4. BFD at SMP Negeri 2, Bogor (April 29th, 2012)
Partnering with Komunitas Sahabat Kecil, a youth community concerning in education for children in West Java’s rural area, we had 30 students aged 13-15 from across the Bogor junior high schools to spend the day with. We watched movie, had a class discussion, identify types of bullying through patching colorful cards onto the wall. Lots of games too.
At the end of the workshop we asked them to write a letter about them forgiving the bully. We believed writing sincere forgiveness was one of the ways to release the anger and stop the circle of bullying. By being peace within ourselves, we could be peace outside as well. As a newly-teen, they seemed to come up with great talents, some of them told us that they liked to dance, sport draw manga, etc, so we said that instead of picking on somebody just because it might look cool, while it actually didn’t, we could really looked cool by being good at something positive. I was glad we finally found the linkage.
5. BFD at Pondok Pesantren Al-Hamidiyah, Depok (May 13th, 2012)
The interesting part of this workshop was that, because it was the Islamic boarding school, we were all divided into male and female section. Each of the group discussed the cases which they had to present in front of the class. The participants were about 30, ranged from 15-19 year old.
Have been going on five workshops, we are still thinking that we need to improve it. In every workshop, we always ask the participants to give us feedback, just write them down anonymously, and we will read during the evaluation. We need to make it more sustainable and measurable. I’m wondering if I could encourage them do the follow-up action after being ‘workshopped’. That way I need to formulate new concept of BFD. I want to make anti-bullying issues more heard not just by conducting workshops, but also by campaign. It is the need of advocating issues after educating issues. But both are important and should be tracked altogether.
I’m keeping all the feedback papers from all the workshops. Most of them were written so sincere that I can sometime grin just by reading it. High school kids. They come up with funny way to tell serious things. But at the same time I have to be sad though, because some of feedback papers tell me about they being bullied. I hope I had helped, as much as they have helped me to realize that I could make myself better not by picking on the geek, but by encouraging youth telling them that they’re worth it.
This is what I want to tell the bullies out there, who are bullying to recover themselves from the experience of having been bullied: you can turn negative inputs you had (even if it burned you like hell for years) into positive actions. It’s all in your hands, whether you want to still playing around in the circle of stupidity or crack them up and create new circle of respect, tolerance, and acceptance. I chose the second option, and I think my life now makes sense. Everything gets better. My best friends are true, the ones who accept me for who I really am; the ones who sarcastically praise my 2 hours late presence on meeting.
One more thing. I wish I could make BFD workshop in my high school. I came to it and proposed this project last January, before all these journey even started, but the board put charge on it so I backed off. Yes, BFD was actually planned to be held in it, but the plan has changed and we make it five workshops with more diverse participants instead.
Anyway, I love my anti-bullying team!