Overcoming bullying and sexual harassment at school

“I just want to be alone, I don’t want to go to school”, shares Ti* – a victim of bullying and sexual harassment at school.

Plan International Vietnam is committed to protecting all children from all forms of violence, and remains focused on the most marginalised and excluded in the country – that is, those who live in challenging and remote mountainous regions where logistics and access are difficult. We have formed powerful partnerships with local NGOs in Hanoi, and through these we are implementing our Gender Responsive School project, which promotes gender equality and reduces school-related gender-based violence.

Plan International Vietnam and the UN Trust Fund for Ending Violence against Women are both supporting the Gender-Responsive project, which aims to reach roughly 30,000 adolescent girls and boys aged 11 to 18. The project promotes safe, accountable and child-friendly spaces where adolescent girls and boys receive a quality education in an environment free of violence.

Based on the project’s success, the Hanoi Department of Education intends to replicate the initiative across 766 schools in the city, potentially reaching over 500,000 adolescents, presenting a unique opportunity for promoting alternative gender norms and relations in urban Vietnam.

Ti*, a pupil at one of the schools involved, tells his story:

“I am in the 9th grade of a secondary school, I remember when I hit puberty, my looks began to change and I started to look different than other girls in my class. Because of my appearance, the boys in class used to stare and point at me and make comments about my looks. Han* was one of those boys. I started to feel scared of Han and wish to be left alone. I did not dare to tell anyone about the way he treated me; and I even planned to quit school.

Soon I learned about the psychology counselling service in my school. One day, I wrote a letter to my school counsellor, Ms Cuc, and sent it through the mailbox in front of the room.

One day, Ms Cuc asked me to help write in her logbook, because I had good handwriting. I was happy to visit the counselling centre without having to worry about any rumours. After speaking with Ms Cuc, I began to open up about my situation with Han and my thoughts about quitting school.

After that conversation, I learned that Han was sorry for his behaviour. He apologised for his acts in a letter to me. I was still afraid of facing Han, but following the advice of Ms Cuc, I started to read and learn about positive ways to overcome my fear.

Weeks after the incident, I returned the books I had borrowed. I now feel confident and dare to face Han. I no longer have thoughts of giving up on school. In fact, I now speak to my friends and tell them that if they ever face troubles, they should speak to the school counsellor.”

“The counselling room is a psychological barrier as students are reluctant to visit the counsellor. As a solution, we installed a mailbox in order to encourage students to share their problems and write to us,” explains Ms Cuc.

“I also had a private talk with Han and explained to him the consequences of his actions – both from a legal perspective, but also about how it affects Ni,” says Ms Cuc.

“In order to gain Ni’s confidence, the teachers encouraged participation in other students groups and extracurricular activities.” explains Ms Cuc.

*Names changed to protect identities.