Girls take action to create a bully-free world
To teach children about the harms of bullying, a group of girls from Thailand developed ‘DAWN’, a creative twist of the classic snakes & ladders board game that fosters empathy one move at a time.
For many students across the world, schools are a perilous place. In Thailand, as many as 92% of schoolchildren have experienced physical or psychological bullying by their peers, while 13% are medically depressed as a result, a recent survey conducted by the Network of Legal Advocates for Children and Youth showed.
This doesn’t just affect learning, but also the social development and health of children and young people, with effects lingering through adulthood.
In Southern Thailand, a region which has been marred by violence and unrest for decades, young people are often the worst affected group.
“In Southern Thailand, we are not only facing ongoing unrest and violence among adults, but also witnessing how this violence can trickle down to children in the form of bullying,”
Having experienced first-hand the ravages of conflict, Nisma’s experiences have instilled in her a strong belief in the importance of teaching children at an early age about the values of peace, social cohesion, and respect, and giving them the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with their peers.
“Being from the Southern border provinces, I always felt different from others, and I also feel rather disheartened because of the perceptions of others towards our region,” she says. “Opportunities there are limited due to many reasons, and I don’t want to see anyone with passion and strong determination miss the chance to make a difference in society.”
‘DAWN’, a creative twist of a traditional board to teach children through play
With the help of Generation Unlimited, Nisma and her friends Nadiroh Wohhae (21) from Pattani province, and Nurlaila Dokha (20) from Yala province—all aspiring teachers—created a venture called ‘Muallim’—which means ‘teacher’ in Arabic—and turned their conviction to nurture peaceful dialogue among children into a reality.
Their creative solution? An ingenious board game that the girls have dubbed ‘DAWN’. Through play, it educates children about peaceful problem solving and conflict resolution. Players take turns in moving their pieces up the board toward the finish line according to the number they roll on the dice. They learn how to handle bullying through Handle Cards, how to help their peers through Hero Cards, and how to self-reflect through Question Cards.
DAWN was modeled on real-life bullying situations so that children can apply the skills they picked up in the game to form positive and healthy relationships with their peers, families, and communities. The game allows players to recognize what behavior constitutes as bullying and learn how to handle such situations, support peers, and reflect on one’s own behavior.
Through surveys with teachers and parents, the young girls found that textbooks and workshops on bullying prevention are often not age-appropriate for primary school children, who are likely to lose focus.
“As all three of us are currently under training to become teachers ourselves, we understand that one of the most effective teaching and learning methods is through active learning,”
After several rounds of testing, improvement, and working with mental health experts to establish a system to gauge the effectiveness of the game in addressing bullying, the girls received a formal endorsement from the Assalam Smart School Association of Thailand (ASSA), which is now disseminating the board game in over 90 schools in its network. The girls also partnered with ‘TK Park Yala’, part of Thailand’s Institute of Knowledge Park with 28 centres across the country.
“We have begun discussions with Change Fusion, Thailand’s renowned social enterprise specializing in supporting incubation of social innovations and social enterprises, to embed the game in Change Fusion’s chat box platform,” says Nadiroh, co-founder of the initiative. “We’ve also reached out to Teach For Thailand (TFT), a non-profit organisation that is a part of the Teach For All network, to explore how DAWN can be adapted for use by TFT teachers.
From inception to incubation through Generation Unlimited
Generation Unlimited’s Youth challenge acts as a catalyst for young people with brilliant ideas, but without the resources to bring them to life.
Competing against 180 other teams from 36 countries, Nisma Khodaeh, Nadiroh Wohae and Nurlaila Dokha emerged as one of eight global winners for their innovative solution to the problem of bullying in schools.
They are now set to receive seed funding of up to US$15,000, along with a tailored global incubation programme which is coordinated globally by UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, working with GenU partners and Country Offices.
“Don't be afraid to start and stand up to make a difference and never give up when you face challenges,” said Nisma. “We believe everyone has the potential and capability to create positive changes; we only need to look within ourselves and discover our passions and interest.”
Today, Nisma serves as an example to us all—embodying how, if given the right opportunities, young people can rise above the circumstances, become engaged citizens, and steer themselves and us all towards a future more fit for children and young people.
The Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge 2019/20 is co-hosted globally by four Generation Unlimited partners – UNICEF, UNDP, Plan International and the World Organization of the Scout Movement, with support from Irish Aid.
 Arabic is the language of Koran. Southern Thailand has an important Muslim minority and the word Mualim – teacher – is cited in Koran as the most respected and dignified profession.