As a research expert on sexual harassment in early childhood development, Dr Ayelet Giladi works in tandem with The Jewish Federation and Israel’s Mashav International Development Program to change lives around the globe. This is accomplished by identifying, supporting and addressing sexual harassment behaviours in young children and adolescents. Her Voice of the Child Association prevention programs make this possible for all ages and for future generations.
With the support of the Israeli Ministry and the Israel Embassy in South Africa, Dr Ayelet Giladi has traveled to South Africa on numerous occasions to present at kindergarten, primary and high schools in and around Cape Town. One of the notable school presentations taking place at the United Herzlia Schools.
“Mashav is Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which assists in the coordination and implementation of worldwide development and cooperation programs in developing countries,” says Dr Giladi.
Sexual harassment prevention workshops
“Herzlia contacted me after reading a report about my work and we started a process of workshops which addressed educators across all the age groups of school learners (age 5+ to 16 years).
“We worked in groups of 10 educators per workshop, together with the school psychologist, social worker and the consultative teacher advisor and relevant school principal and the three age-appropriate workshops I provide from Taking a Stand 1 for Grades 1 & 2, Taking a Stand 2 for Grades 3 to 7 and Taking a Stand Big Time for Grade 8 to 10.
“The results have been amazing and we will continue the learnerships around my Voice of the Child Association prevention programs.
Herzlia Schools- Leaders in education
“United Herzlia Schools are leaders in education and provide a solid foundation for students across all areas of life and development with the aim of producing pupils who are actively engaged, confident, courageous and resilient global citizens. As such they have successfully become one of the top feeder schools to the University of Cape Town.”
Director of Education at United Herzlia Schools, Dr Geoff Cohen says, “We provide a disciplined, but non-authoritarian environment. As our focus is on the children, we encourage caring and trustworthy relationships between teachers and pupils. Through this, it allows the pupils to be more confident for active participation, to question what they don’t understand and above all, freedom of thought.
“United Herzlia Schools in the Western Cape of South Africa, comprise four pre-primary schools around the peninsula (up to Grade R); Three primary schools (Grades 1 – 6) and the Highlands Estate campus at Herzlia Middle School (Grade 7 – 9) and Herzlia High School (Grade 10 – 12).
“I often tell my staff that every day they walk through the gates of our school, they make a difference in the lives of our children.” said Dr Cohen.
The role of educators in preventing sexual abuse
Dr Ayelet Giladi is on a mission to share her research and educational programs in the prevention of sexual violence and abuse with any many educational facilities globally as is possible.
“I travel the globe sharing my work with parents, psychologies and schools and teacher training colleges and what always meets me is how rape, abuse and harassment of young children is so prevalent in the world, especially where young children don’t have rights and don’t understand their rights. It is my life’s mission to stop the onslaught of sexual abuse and violence towards children by giving them the tools to protect themselves.
“Another major aspect which I see is that adults themselves, let alone children, are ill-informed and desensitized to what sexual harassment behaviours are.
Society Desensitised to Sexual Harassment Behaviours
“Sexual harassment happens to both boys and girls and harassment can be verbal, nonverbal or physical. All of which impact the child and adult with a severity that leads to a number of consequences.
“Often educators, including sports coaches and principals are seen as a trusted adults and students will look to them for social guidance or sharing of painful situations. We need to be prepared to respond, support and find answers for their healthy development.
Effective Programs and Tools for Prevention
“My programs not only empower young children from age 5+ but they enable the educator to prepare, cope and prevent it taking place in the classroom or playground.
“We give children a voice and adults the tools in speaking up, acknowledging and preventing similar behaviours from taking place so everyone can feel safe, protected and respected within the school environment, home and community environment.
“My programs reach across gender and social, cultural and religious mores and speak to each child and adult (with age appropriate programs) as an individual who has rights. Rights to be treated respectfully and to respect others.
“After 10 years of bringing programs to hundreds of schools in Israel through the Israeli Department of Education we’ve see an immediate result of reduced levels of violence in the classroom.
Responding to crisis situations
“Within an environment and new school scenario, students and their teachers are enabled to speak up and respond to crises situations. At the same time, we have a has far wider reach into the parents and communities where they live. With awareness, each school can know what to look for and how to respond appropriately when a situation of sexual harassment, sexual bullying or sexual abuse arises.
“My Voice of the Child Association programs cover all topics related to this – nothing is taboo. From gender equality to the law, what motivates sexually violent or abusive behaviours, where and how it leads to sexual abuse for both victims and perpetrators and most essentially the tools to empower the child so that they can sidestep what can be a life-changing event which impacts their relationships into the future.”
For schools in countries inaccessible to personal visits by Dr Giladi, her book can be ordered online when clicking here.
To see more about Dr Giladi’s school’s programs click here