In November, 2017, Wadi launched the No to Violence campaign in Garmyan, targeting schools, teachers, parents and students. The focus of the campaign is to reduce and end violence in schools, improve communication skills among teachers and their students, along with teachers and parents. In addition, they also provide awareness seminars, legal and social counseling for women and men in villages.
The campaign started small, with the end goal of reaching nation-wide awareness and participation. With mobile teams working on field, the idea of making a real, effective and long-lasting changes and improvements was formed. You can follow the daily activities of the campaign the No to Violence Facebook Page.
As part of the campaign the Playbus Project is also used to interact with children and provide them with age appropriate entertainment as well as basic hygiene awareness.
So far, our team in Garmyan has visited 25 schools, and meet with 192 teachers and 383 students to provide awareness on the campaign.
Here Wadi Staff member Shokh Mohammad interviews Layla Ahmed & Khalat Salih, Wadi Team members in Garmyan on their experiences:
What reaction did you expect while spreading the message of No to Violence Campaign?
Khalat Salih: In my opinion, this campaign is a spark of light in the darkness, raising the question of “are we raising our children, right?” of course it was hard at the beginning, in our seminars sometimes people told us that “it’s okay to hit children, it’s nothing important”.
Layla Ahmed: There were definitely mixed opinions. Many loved the campaign because it shed light on education for children. Families understood that children should not be subjected to violence, hence supporting the campaign. Later, we thought of involving media to further spread the message of the campaign and help reduce violence in the families, not only in Garmyan but everywhere that “children should not be subjected to violence either at school or at home.”
What were the effects of violence that you had witnessed through your work?
Khalat Salih: We noticed how negatively it was affecting children. They became depressed and aggressive which is alarming, at school they just go with the flow. At home there’s no (alternative) plan to raise children, their parents normalize hitting children which we believe is a big problem.
Layla Ahmed: We have seen violence from teachers: verbal, physical, and emotional. And the child faces the same (violence) even at home. It creates an emotional gap.
Can you tell us what value do children feel like they have in your experience with the play bus?
Layla Ahmed: Through our work we notice that children are craving love from the family. When we tell them about their rights, they ask us “why doesn’t my family treat me that way?”
Khalat Salih: We give time to children, that’s most important as they do not get it from 90% of their families nor teachers. There is poor communication among families, especially, not listening to children. This value is not given to children. And it will become a big emotional gap in the child’s life.
Most children are surprised and amazed at how we treat them, “are you really going to play with us?” they ask. Children are given the impression that they are slaves of the adult not friends. They hug us tightly we understand from that how hungry they are for love and attention.
What do you think should be done to further this revolution in thinking?
Layla Ahmed: We believe everyone should be aware of their rights and how to ask for it. Many women express that beside the violence they face, they also face issues of forced sex, by their husbands. These women think the men actually own them, they have no right to say NO. We need to work on eliminating gender discrimination, so that we don’t live our whole lives fighting for gender equality.
Khalat Salih: This is related to individuals, we need to stop letting religion take over our personalities, then allow culture to dominate our ideas and way of life.
Individually we need a revolution that allows people the freedom of choosing partners, because the society consists of these families. Before marriage and at the courts, it is important for couples to get proper awareness regarding their rights and duties towards each other, then get awareness courses on marriage life, they need to decide together and raise children together.
Teenagers too, are not allowed to have ideas of their own, but are very influenced by their parents, culture and religion.
As women humanitarian teams what are your struggles working in this field?
Layla Ahmed: It was hard as women, because talking about Femal Gential Mutilation (FGM) was shameful for people, women reproached us along with men, they thought lowly of us. We kept on persisting and were able to convince many that our work is on awareness. Now they are even ready to let their daughters and son to do what we do.
Khalat Salih: In Garmyan, a woman who wants to live freely and work freely is usually viewed as a threat, we face this threat a lot in the village, the men were scared for their women to be aware. They no longer become slaves and know their rights.
Beside your awareness program you also have environmental events and activities for children and adults, do you see its effect?
Layla Ahmed: children are perceptive, now, they know not to be violent towards the environment, and animals, they know animals have rights too. Among the families we talked about the benefits of plants and trees, we took many trees to be planted and help them to understand more, they know humans must live with trees and plants and nature.
Khalat Salih: Garmyan is dry and hot place. When we go with trees the youth participate in planting they know its value. Now they even ask for it.
After planting, they also need to keep the surrounding clean, if one picks up trash on the ground and puts it in a trash can, he/she will influence others, people have understood that.
Final Question, What’s your message/suggestions to the Ministry of Education and its Directorates to further monitor violence in schools?
Layla Ahmed: As NGOs, we need to coordinate with the directorates, to report to them, they need to follow up Violent behavior must be reported, to work with teachers and parents. And also, to involve the media for more awareness.
These topics needs to be included in the official education curriculum: environment protection, child rights, the laws and not to result to violence.
Khalat Salih: First thing is reconciliation between teachers and DOE, due to lack of communication, teachers act in certain way. This is vital.
Second a curriculum is needed the focus on raising children and their rights, how to deal with them children according to their age.
Constant and frequent awareness seminars are needed along with parent-teacher meetings
At the end, we hope the DOE would help NGO’s to at least let students have access to awareness leaflets because many cases of violence happen within the schools too.