Standing together to curb bullying

Malaysia’s movement to create a culture of kindness.

by Diana Chai
Post its with kind messages
UNICEF Malaysia/2018/RChoong
21 June 2018

It made me feel like I was nothing to anyone else.

Kadira, 10, victim of bullying

Ten year old Kadira (not her real name) experienced bullying at school. Despite complaining to teachers many times, nothing changed. The bullying caused her much stress and she started feeling depressed even worthless.

Bullying can have lasting effects. Victims, bullies, and even bystanders can experience anxiety and depression stemming from bullying incidents, that if not addressed, persist into adulthood. According to the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation, bullying affects 84% of children under 18 in some way or form. Bullying took many forms including cyberbullying and in some cases, physical violence that led to severe injuries and even death.

In 2017, Malaysians were shocked by a series of bullying incidences that ended in the death of T Nhaveen and navy cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman at the hands of their peers. There was growing interest from the public too.

Between 2012 and 2015, 14,000 bullying cases at school were recorded in Malaysia by the Ministry of Education.

The Star Rage

Together with the Ministry of Education Malaysia, youth reporters Rage, NGO Women & Girls, and the Borneo Marathon, UNICEF sought to counter bullying with kindness. Under the hashtag #Standtogether, the message was for all people to stand together, support each other, and come up with ideas to express kindness.

A lot of bullying initiatives focus on punishing the bully but doing so only continues the cycle of violence. We wanted to counter bullying through kindness.

Instead of punishing the bully – it is time to reward the kind.

Violence begets violence; showing kindness and love is the most important intervention for both victims and bullies

Dr Goh, Dean of HELP University, Psychology Department. Speaker at #Standtogether free talk event

As part of the #StandTogether campaign, a competition was held in which schools were asked to submit Kindness Project ideas for National Kindness Week. Over 150 submissions were received. Thirty winning schools were given RM1,000 (USD260) each to run their projects, and receive a visit by one of the campaign’s celebrity ambassadors. Children, teachers, and parents alike were invited to take the kindness pledge.

the pledge with 3 things students can do to be kinder
The Star Rage

The campaign created Malaysia’s first National Kindness Week in April 2018.

In the spirit of #Standtogether, UNICEF also worked with the Borneo Marathon in Sabah to send the kindness message to a new audience. The team spoke to marathon runners at the event and participants took the kindness pledge during the prize giving ceremony. UNICEF and the Borneo Marathon team also spoke to children in the community to highlight stories of bullying happening in Sabah. It was through these stories that Kadira could share her experience.

Her message is this:

I would like to tell other children that they should never listen to the bullies. I feel it is important to share my story because I don’t want other children to feel depressed or sad like I did.  

Kadira, victim of bullying

The campaign saw many children and adults come forward to share their experiences with bullying. Even celebrities shared how they were bullied.

Also, to commemorate World Children’s Day in Malaysia, UNICEF collaborated with the Ministry of Education Malaysia to encourage schools across Malaysia to participate in a “Kindness For Every Child” #kidstakeover school programme. A flexible and engaging School Activation kicked off early in 2018 and will continue through the year to motivate children to learn about their rights, and mobilise “kindness” actions in their schools.

What is bullying? How does it affect children? How to cope with it? Browse through videos, posters and other resources available on the Standtogether website: to help you support a victim, be a responsible bystander, and spread kindness every day.