Having wrapped up 9 sessions at an all-girls branch at Lahore Grammar School (LGS) in the city, this year, we sat down with the Founder of BullyProof, Zainab Chughtai, and spoke to her about the sessions and her experiences!
Zainab, you recently wrapped up 9 BullyProof sessions and workshops at an LGS branch all through November and early December – what was your experience like?
I can safely say it was one of the most gratifying and emotionally taxing experiences of my life! When we went in for those sessions I don’t think either of us was ready for the onslaught of honesty and raw emotions. I know I cried during every single one of them, when those little ones came forward during the confession sessions, when we saw class fellows crying for their fellow students because they realized just how hurt and isolated some of them had been all along, and the most important thing was this hunger for affection and love amongst these kids which broke my heart to be honest. So over nine sessions, with girls ranging from the ages of 6 to 13, I feel like we have experienced hundreds of stories that had no voice earlier, and narratives that didn’t have a happy ending, which I hope we helped facilitate to one. Every session for me was a lesson in self-reflection, a throwback in time, to how I wish I had done things differently and how I will do things differently in the future, learning from these children as to just how important it is to be kind.
What was the response like; from both the students and the faculty? Would you like to share some heartwarming experiences?
When we started talking to the children about definitions, about blurred lines when it comes to teasing and hurting someone, I think we opened up their eyes to what was happening all around them. Not only the children, but the teachers as well.
One of our first sessions was with the teachers from an LGS junior school – they were wonderful- super interactive and asking the right questions, sharing hair-raising anecdotes that furthered the message we were passing on. I believe after a session with grade 4, we had one of their young teachers come up to us and told us that what she took away from the session was a life lesson unto itself, how it has made her feel more in control of her choices, how she is passing that strength down to her young son who is bullied and she is raising as a single mother. But the hope in her eyes and voice and her gratitude was inspirational. I was floored by the sentiment. We never thought it would be this big, that it would hit home the way it did. But I think my favourite session was with the 8th grade. Those girls were something else, so warm-hearted and affectionate and in tune with what was happening to their peers. My favourite exercise with them was when we asked them to say something nice about a class fellow that usually sat alone or didn’t mingle much with her peers, and soon enough there was this flood of compliments, and the girls that they were directed to were overwhelmed and broke down, and seeing them cry made the rest of the little ones break down too. It was emotional! And I realized just how in need of guidance and affection they all were. That session ended in tears and group hugs and vows to be better people. I still can’t stop thinking about it. I can only hope for more like that.