“I am sure that I will succeed in life”

The dreams of a teenage girl from Pucallpa who overcame school bullying

By: Ricardo Monzón
Milena estudiando en clase
UNICEF Perú/Monzón, R.
29 November 2022

A few years ago, Milena (now 14 years old) stood at the back of the classroom, watching her classes, waiting for the bell to ring to save her. At a school in Lima she would rather not remember, she suffered from bullying which caused her to stay away from classes and even made her repeat the third grade of primary school.

This could be the story of a teenager contributing to the statistics of lost learning, but it is not. Milena tells her story from the front row of the first grade classroom at Reverendo Padre Isidro School in Pucallpa, Ucayali region, to where she has transferred. She is standing in front of her classmates and wearing a brigadier's lanyard, as she is part of the successful SíSeVe Brigade (Specialised System for Handling Cases of School Violence).

Pucallpa, Ucayali

"The SíSeVe Brigade is an ally that protects the most vulnerable people, the weak who cannot defend themselves. I, along with other girls and boys, help to ensure that there are no problems of violence, discrimination, bullying, rape, and verbal and physical aggression in my school", says Milena.

This strategy, led by the Ministry of Education of Peru and aimed at encouraging girls and boys to take the lead in the fight against violence in their schools, has been promoted by the United Nations Children's Fund – UNICEF in several regions of the country, with the support of Zonta International in Ucayali and Huancavelica, empowering the capacities of adolescents like Milena through workshops and activities to develop their soft skills.

Milena en el patio de su escuela
UNICEF Perú/Monzón, R.

Up to April 2022 alone, a total of 874 schoolchildren from public and public schools reported physical, psychological or sexual aggression, according to SiSeVe data. Almost half of the alleged aggressors are teachers and administrators. This makes it all the more relevant that Milena overcame this difficult episode in her life thanks to a teacher who, she says, changed her life.

"When I was bullied I was very quiet because I was afraid of my classmates. They mistreated me psychologically, insulted me or told me I had lice. I was depressed, but thanks to the SíSeVe Brigade and a Venezuelan teacher named Diorladis, who was my tutor at a new school in Puente Piedra, Northern Lima, I was able to overcome my fears".

-Milena, 14 years old

Today Milena sees the future with optimism. She looks at the blue sky of the Amazon rainforest and sees herself capable of reaching it. "I want to become a lawyer because I like to defend, a psychologist because I like to understand people and a veterinarian to protect animals. I am sure I will succeed in life. I want to be at the forefront, to be in the front lines. That's my dream", she concludes.