I WAS about 10 years old when I started the ‘Anti Bullying Squad’, an impact business that aims to reduce bullying in schools and campuses by educating young people about the problem, providing advice to those affected and encouraging incident reporting.
What inspired me to start the business was an incident where I saw a six-year-old girl being bullied. I guess I could say that incident changed my life and gave me purpose. That’s when I decided to embark on this anti-harassment mission.
Initially, when I was just starting my business in 2018, I started by going to different schools and campuses and taking sessions with students about bullying. However, the pandemic prohibits it. Everything went online, and so did I. I decided to adapt quickly by taking online seminars on bullying and cyberbullying. I followed sessions with several schools and NGOs. I did several Instagram Lives, podcasts, online interviews and leveraged social media to reach as many kids as possible.
Something I noticed was that students could open up much better online than offline because no one was physically there to judge them. People were more willing to share their bullying incidents with their cameras turned off. They just wanted to be heard. During one such session, a 10-year-old boy shared his experience of being bullied. He told me that he used to get slapped and kicked on the shin on the school bus by his seniors every day. In fact, he was grateful to the pandemic for his school closing. It had become so painful that his right shin had been totally bruised. When he tried to tell his parents about it, they just dismissed it as part of growing up. He had come to have suicidal thoughts because he couldn’t take it anymore and even his own parents weren’t supporting him anymore. He felt helpless.
Another girl shared her experience since being cyberbullied. She told how someone she knew and was very close to created an online group and leaked personal information about her identity. Because of this, she started receiving homophobic comments and messages, which made her extremely self-aware and embarrassed. She mentioned that she was afraid that her friends would betray her and began to feel lonely. Moreover, she ceased to feel comfortable in her identity.
Not only young children, but also slightly older ones shared their past experiences. One lady told me that her teachers and peers used to pick on her skin color and body type, calling her names like ‘Kali’ or ‘Moti’. And the worst part is that she didn’t even realize it was bullying. She thought she deserved to be treated this way, when in fact no one does.
Students also contacted me after the sessions. In fact, my emails and Instagram DMs (direct messages) were full of personal messages from people sharing their bullying experiences. Most of them didn’t even ask for help, all they did was vent and talk because they needed someone to listen to them.
These sessions and listening to the many experiences made me realize that I have to work to create a much bigger impact. I need to reach students on a larger scale. To do this, I decided to move from live online sessions to a one-hour self-paced online program that would talk about all aspects of bullying from the perspective of key participants. Through this, I sincerely hope I have been able to educate and impact thousands of children and adults. I also collaborated with one of India’s largest independent non-profit youth voluntary organizations, Bhumi, for a seminar on bullying and cyberbullying.
In the three years of working on this cause, one thing I can say surely works – anything reported can be resolved. Then the idea came to me to create a mobile application around the current educational infrastructure, so that all bullying problems could be solved. I worked on creating ‘Kavach’, a mobile incident reporting app through which any child or parent can report bullying anonymously. These incidents can also be consulted by the school, which can take the appropriate measures to resolve them. It also offers a self-paced training program, “Bullying Deep Dive”, consisting of 10 short videos to educate children about various aspects of bullying. The app also has a deterrent effect.
I pitched the idea and got funded by the reality show “Shark Tank India” for the app. It was an important step because I was the youngest candidate. I have also reached out to school counselors and they have been positive about the idea of this app, especially the analytics feature, which allows schools to view reports on bullying patterns and trends in their schools.
I was also invited by the Ministry of Culture to be part of the song “Mauka Hai” with 40 “youth icons” to inspire young people to build a stronger nation together.
2021 has been a great year and I feel like it’s just the beginning. 2022 has a lot of work ahead of me.