By VANEESHA KRISHNASAMY
“THEY called me ‘Satan’.” “I cried in the toilet every night.” “They would throw rocks at me and hit me with a broom.”
These are all messages from bullying victims. And each ends with a poignant cry for help: “I wish someone had stood by me,” says one message. Another reads “I wish I had a best friend.”
The tales of abuse at the hands of their peers vary, but the message is clear: things would have been better for them if they hadn’t been alone.
That’s why #StandTogether, a nationwide campaign that aims to end bullying through promoting kindness in school, was created.
The campaign, a joint initiative by Star Media Group and property developer SP Setia, was launched on Monday by Selangor Princess Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. Spearheaded by the R.AGE team, #StandTogether aims to implement a national week of kindness in schools every first week of April, starting in 2018.
“We are not anti-bullies, or here to vilify the bullies,” said Tengku Zatashah during the launch. “This is a campaign to promote very simple values to all – kindness, empathy and unity.”
“Victims of aggression feel the effects of bullying even more when they’re isolated,” said Star Media Group’s chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai. “We should make a stand with them, to show them they aren’t alone.”
The hope-fueled campaign received overwhelming support from NGOs and influencers alike. Organisations like Unicef and Teach for Malaysia were present for the launch, as well as celebrity campaign ambassadors Jinnyboy, Lisa Surihani, Arwind Kumar, John Oommen, Dayang Nurfaizah, and Jenn Chia, all of whom pledged to support the campaign.
Support has continued to pour in since the launch, most recently from the Education Ministry.
Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan tweeted his support almost immediately, calling #StandTogether an “excellent anti-bullying initiative”.
He pledged the ministry’s support to R.AGE as well, saying it will mark “the beginning of the end for bullying.”
Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon also released a statement supporting the campaign.
“The Ministry is more than happy to support the #StandTogether initiative, because it means that schools nationwide will become safe places for our future leaders,” he said.
But, as the campaign’s name suggests, all stakeholders need to stand together in order for it to work – and that includes parents.
“In order to shape our kids into decent human beings, we need to guide them from a young age not to be the kind of person who upsets or harms other people,” said Lisa, who is also a mother of two.
“We should instill the right kind of thinking into each and every human being, so we shouldn’t look at this issue as a miniscule matter, or just another campaign.”
That’s exactly what the #StandTogether campaign aims to do – mobilise communities to independently organise bullying prevention activities in schools.
“We really hope that people participate in this amazing initiative and help it snowball into a big movement,” said SP Setia chief executive officer, Datuk Khor Chap Jen.
“We don’t want people to forget about the issue once the hot news dies down.”
R.AGE is currently developing an online resource centre where volunteers – parents, former students, school societies, and colleges and universities alike – can download a week-long programme and organise their own #StandTogether activities.
* The nationwide #StandTogether bullying prevention week will take place on April 2-6. To organise a #StandTogether event in your local school, go to fb.com/StandTogetherMY.