Bullying is a poison. What’s the antidote?
Bullying is unfortunately a prevalent issue in many schools around the world, taking many forms - physical, verbal, even psychological abuse. It can undeniably leave a victim helpless and oppressed; unheard. Kavach, created by 14-year old entrepreneur Anoushka Jolly, aims to be the voice for the voiceless. In this article, we explore Anoushka’s initiative to create a “kinder and empathetic world”, as she puts it, - the Anti-Bullying Squad (ABS) and Kavach.
When you imagine school life, you definitely picture bullying. A group of kids towering over a kid, insulting them, teasing them, even making them cry. It’s no wonder that bullying is a phenomenon that even stars in high-school movies.
Wikipedia defines bullying as “the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate.” However, bullying need not harm the victim in substantial or recognizable ways- bullying can manifest itself discreetly, silently, causing immense mental distress to the endurer.
“If it can cause such harm, why does it still exist in schools?”, you might ask.
There can be many reasons why bullying may go unchecked in educational institutions, chief among them being that victims feel fearful, not just of retaliation if they speak out, but also of not being trusted when they do stand up for themselves. This fear can even lead to a lack of confidence in victims of bullying.
14 year-old Anoushka Jolly too was a victim of bullying at the hand of her classmates, but she was motivated to bring change. In an interview with Indian Express, she said,
"I was motivated by a pressing need to do something about the issue when I heard people’s stories of how bullying impacted them and made them feel powerless and less about themselves. It made me more sensitive towards the cause. I decided to take some action towards eradicating bullying by raising awareness, as no one deserves to be in that mental state. This led to the birth of Anti-Bullying Squad (ABS)”
Founded in 2018, the Anti-Bullying Squad is a platform that spreads awareness about bullying with schools and educational institutions. Through Anti-Bullying workshops, individual counselling sessions and webinars, they speak on any kind of Child Bullying issues with individuals, schools or organisations.
The Anti-Bullying Squad isn’t the only initiative Anoushka has started. She also runs an app called ‘Kavach’ (a Hindi word meaning shield) that parents, children or schools can use. On ‘Kavach’, Anoushka provides a 10-video course on becoming an ABS Ambassador. These videos deal with various aspects of bullying, like mechanisms of bullying, cyber-bullying, trolling and cancel culture. On becoming an ambassador, you receive a certificate, along with the power to report/take action against bullying.
This reporting is anonymous and allows the parent/child/institution which reports it a sense of security. The ABS also conducts talks on this sensitive topic in schools and has reached over 700+ people in their online program during the pandemic.
Anoushka hasn’t been alone in building this anti-bullying movement.
In her words,
“My mother (Monika Jolly) who is a CA left her practice to support me in my work and she in a way is my backend room support. Apart from Sharks Anupam Mittal and Aman Gupta, who provide mentorship and guidance to my entrepreneurial venture post their engagement as my investors, Prajakt Deotale, CDO of Microsoft UK, Vishesh Khurana, co-founder of Shiprocket (India’s 106th Unicorn) and Dr. Derick Lindquist, Dean at Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling are backing my work.”
She also said that her school played a magnificent part in promoting her venture;
"My school has been a pillar of support throughout my journey. I feel they are the reason I decided to take action in such a way because they have always encouraged student voice and choice.”
As institutions that create a safe space for students, schools have a huge responsibility in creating a welcoming learning environment. Focus should be laid on educating students and staff on bullying, creating and implementing anti-bullying policies, as well as providing support for victims.
While schools are a big part of the solution, what happens inside a home? How should parents/guardians ease their children/ward’s concerns?
Definitely, silencing children is not the way to go; this could create an ‘emotional imbalance, leading to depression, anxiety or PTSD. Instead, parents should bring up the issue to the school management or encourage open dialogue about what happened at school, even report the issue on the Kavach app! This shows children that they are being trusted and supported for their actions.
When an innovation is as successful as Anoushka’s Kavach, there are limitations that are bound to pop up. For example:
Children may deny to report an instance of bullying, even though it’s anonymous
People who do not have devices at home may not have access to this feature
Instances of false reports of bullying
Users may be unable to provide sufficient information about the issue, so the support team may not be able to sort it out
It may take some time to receive a response or resolution to the reported problem. This can be frustrating, particularly if the issue is urgent or time-sensitive.
For me, it was incredible how Anoushka chose to not wallow in her misery and prevent millions of children like her going through similar problems in their life. She is one of the many living examples in our country that you don’t have to put an age limit on your aspirations.
If you’re a victim of bullying, remember- you’re not the only one. You may feel alone in this vast universe, that your absence will make no difference to the world and that you won’t be missed but, just think- what if Anoushka thought just the same thing and hadn’t created Kavach and the ABS? What would happen to those 700+ students?
Yet, when people hurt you over and over, think of them as sandpaper. They may scratch and hurt you, but in the end, you turn up polished and them- useless.
Written by Nivrrithi Arvindkumar
Nivrrithi is a seventh-grader from Chennai who strongly believes that words are revolutionary, if exploited to their fullest potential. She is a ballet and tap dancer who firmly believes that it transports one into a world of reverie. She greatly enjoys public-speaking and writing powerful pieces that centers around intense emotion. She hopes to publish a short story and a photography blog which is currently in the making and is a part of her school's Newsletter Team. Her main drive is fascination that keeps her ardent about the generalized idea of learning.