[Det talte ord gælder]
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to talk to you today about the uniqueness of every individual and the universal desire we all share to belong.
Each person is different, both in their thoughts and their appearance. From the moment we are born, we possess inherent differences, and as we grow, our experiences and the culture we are surrounded by further shape us.
Regardless of who we are or where we find ourselves in the world, we all yearn for a sense of belonging. We crave deep connections with others, as this need is innate within all of us. We all need someone who values us and someone we can value in return.
This is precisely why it is so heartbreaking for a child to experience bullying. When a child is bullied, they are stripped of that vital sense of belonging and connection.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, as we gather in this room, it is important to acknowledge that each one of us is unique. We bring with us our own distinct perspectives on the complex issue of bullying and its underlying dynamics.
It is only natural that our approach to bullying is influenced by various factors such as our culture, societal values, and even our perception of children.
However, despite our differences, there is a common thread that binds us all together – the shared desire to combat bullying.
We all yearn to gain a deeper understanding of why bullying occurs and, more importantly, how we can actively work towards its prevention.
Sadly, bullying continues to persist on a worrying scale. Though there is a growing awareness worldwide that we can indeed combat bullying, we still have a long way to go.
Children from all corners of the globe face the damaging effects of bullying, often left to confront these challenges alone.
When a child becomes a victim of bullying, they are weighed down by fundamental questions: Why am I excluded? Why am I not liked? Where do I belong?
These doubts can deeply impact their sense of self and shape their future experiences.
Positive interactions within their communities and relationships during their formative years can boost their self-esteem and empower them to engage with new communities.
Conversely, negative experiences can lead to negative emotions, mistrust, and a profound sense of loneliness.
The consequences of bullying on a child’s life can be devastating. That is why it is crucial that we prioritize the fight against bullying and ensure our focus.
I firmly believe that we can learn from one another and draw inspiration from each other’s experiences. Together, we can contribute towards a world where bullying no longer exists.
Over the past 16 years, the Mary Foundation has been dedicated to preventing bullying. Through collaborations with practitioners, NGOs, and local governments, we have worked to initiate transformative processes in childcare facilities and schools.
Our goal is to foster a culture of care, tolerance, and inclusivity.
At the Mary Foundation, we firmly believe that the creation of safe and accepting communities, where children feel secure and embraced for who they are, is paramount to their development and well-being.
All our efforts to combat bullying are rooted in extensive research. We rely on solid Danish research to inform our strategies, ensuring that our initiatives are effective and evidence-based.
In Denmark, researchers have discovered that to truly understand bullying and its causes, we must shift our focus from individual children to the social processes and culture surrounding groups of children.
While it is important to care for each individual child, we need to understand the social dynamics that give rise to bullying in order to effectively prevent and intervene in such situations.
Renowned for EXBUS researchers lead by Professor Dorte Marie Søndergaard have found that bullying can stem from children’s inherent desire to belong.
When children feel unsafe or perceive potential isolation within their community or group, the fear of social exclusion can emerge.
In fragile and insecure communities, tolerance levels are low, and the fear of potential isolation and exclusion intensifies.
Children begin to question their acceptance and their sense of belonging. This discomfort often leads to the formation of new groups, where bullying can become the binding element.
In other words, bullying frequently originates from the fear of being left outside the group, the fear of not belonging to the community.
This affects not only the children directly involved but also those who are part of the social contexts that enable bullying.
Understanding this perspective has allowed us to view bullying prevention through a new lens. One of the most effective ways to prevent bullying is by creating safe and inclusive children’s communities, where everyone feels accepted for who they are and where they truly belong.
To illustrate this concept, I would like to show a short film.
In the Mary Foundation, all our initiatives are grounded in the understanding of bullying through this lens.
Currently, we have three different programs that target different areas where children spend their time: daycare, schools, and extracurricular activities.
The Free of Bullying program is designed for children aged 0-9 and is a preventive program developed and implemented in partnership with Save the Children Denmark.
It is currently being used in over 60% of Danish nurseries and kindergartens, as well as over 50% of schools. The program has also been implemented in other countries such as Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Estonia, Romania, and France.
Our School Strength program aims to prevent and address bullying through a whole school approach.
Developed and implemented in collaboration with Save the Children Denmark and the Danish NGO ‘Børns Vilkår,’ the goal of this program is to create a culture within each school where everyone feels respected, valued, and has a valued and respected place in the community.
Additionally, we have the ‘Antibulli’ program, which focuses on bullying in sports outside the school system. This program is operated in partnership with various Danish sports associations and targets children involved in different sports.
Through research, we discovered that bullying also occurs in sports, leading many children to drop out of their sports clubs.
To address this issue, we developed Antibulli as a specific tool for coaches and volunteers. Initially launched for handball, the program has expanded to include football, swimming, horseback riding, and tennis.
By implementing these programs, we aim to create safe and inclusive environments for children in all aspects of their lives.
We are proud to have played a role in positive changes, but we recognize that the fight against bullying is an ongoing effort. As society evolves and new challenges arise, we must adapt and continue to address bullying in all its forms.
In Denmark, the recognition of the importance of tackling bullying has led to the implementation of anti-bullying policies in all schools. This ensures that schools have a framework in place to address and prevent bullying, and it provides families with a channel to voice their concerns through the National Complaints Board against Bullying.
It is crucial to maintain a united front in the fight against bullying. Government entities, NGOs, schools, kindergartens, and nurseries have all come together to create a common understanding of the issue and work towards positive change.
By collaborating and sharing knowledge and resources, we can make a greater impact and create a safer and more inclusive environment for all children.
However, we must remain vigilant and proactive. Bullying is not a problem that will simply disappear on its own. It requires persistent and systematic interventions to ensure that every child feels safe, respected, and valued.
With the ever-changing dynamics of children’s interactions, particularly with the shift towards online platforms, we must adapt our strategies to address new challenges and protect children in all aspects of their lives.
The Mary Foundation remains committed to our mission of preventing and addressing bullying. Through our carefully evaluated programs and collaborations with partners, we will continue to work towards a society where every child can thrive without fear of bullying.
Each country has its own unique cultural, structural, and contextual factors that influence the issue of bullying. It is important to approach anti-bullying efforts with an understanding of these differences and adapt strategies accordingly.
However, despite the variations, there are often common underlying principles and strategies that can be applied universally.
By coming together at this conference, we have an incredible opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and exchange ideas on how to effectively address bullying in different contexts.
Curiosity and a willingness to learn are essential in this process. By being open to new perspectives and approaches, we can broaden our understanding and discover innovative solutions. Additionally, collaboration and unity among all stakeholders involved in the fight against bullying are crucial. By working together, we can leverage our collective expertise and resources to make a greater impact.
Let us approach the upcoming days with an open mind and a commitment to learning from each other. Together, we can create a world where bullying is no longer tolerated, and every child can grow up in a safe and supportive environment.