Young activists teach peers how to defend themselves against domestic violence and bullying

Jan 11, 2018

Photo credit: UNDP in Ukraine / Anastasia Vlasova

MARIUPOL, Ukraine – Wearing blue T-shirts and blue caps with a cartoon character called “Mongoose-Police Officer” printed on them, 30 Mariupol teenagers are training their peers how to protect themselves from domestic violence and bullying.

“It’s easier for us to talk to our peers – they’ll say more to us than to adults,” said Sofia Gomziakova, 14.

She is one of 30 Mariupol teenagers training their peers how to protect themselves.

The level of domestic violence is high in the conflict-torn Donetsk region, where the industrial seaport city of Mariupol is located.

More than 330 children were reported to be victims of domestic violence in Donetsk Oblast last year, and around 300 children were taken into care by the social services in 2017, according to police statistics.

The young activists from the “League of Future Police Officers” NGO underwent UNDP-supported special psychological and security training.

Their message: If you see violence at school – tell a teacher, if you see violence in the street – look for an adult or call the police, and if you are being abused at home – don't be afraid to report it to the police.

Some of the young activists have witnessed violence themselves. In Sofia’s school, a girl was beaten up by classmates five years ago. Earlier, teenagers from the same school found a suspicious black suitcase in their schoolyard, and the police bomb disposal unit had to be called in.

Sofia said she had always respected police officers’ work, as her uncle is a policeman.

Pavlo Zolotukhin, 15, said he had participated in the project out of interest, and now feels more confident and safe thanks to it.

Now he is thinking about working for the police in the future.

“Being in the police is one of the most generous occupations, because they really help people, protecting their lives,” Pavlo said.

This initiative to reinforce rule of law and community security in conflict-affected areas in eastern Ukraine was funded by the European Union and is part of UNDP’s Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme.

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