‘I was hoping my small book could have this conversation on how do we identify bullying and say that behavior is bullying’
A local doctor is hoping to help families turn a new page in the discussion around bullying prevention.
Dr. Asa Ahimbisibwe is a gynecologist and obstetrician at Cambridge Memorial Hospital who published Squirrel The Bullya children’s book aimed at starting conversations around bullying and how to identify it.
“Bullying comes in every shape and form,” said Ahimbisibwe, who was inspired to write the book after learning of another physician whose child was experiencing bullying.
Squirrel The Bully is a story about a group of animal friends, frog, mouse and rabbit, who all want to become friends with squirrel. Soon, the squirrel begins to bully each of them for being different. The book ends with all the animals learning the importance of not being a bystander when bullying happens.
This is the second book written by Ahimbisibwe. Previously, the author wrote a memoir called Hopefull, which focuses on his life in rural Uganda and becoming a doctor and an advocate for maternal health after seeing how it became a barrier for his sister to obtain an education.
Published this September, Squirrel The Bully is also raising funds for the women and children’s health department at CMH. Residents can purchase the book through the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation website.
Ahimbisibwe said he chose to use animals to tell the story as they are more neutral creatures that are recognizable for children and to not cast anyone in a negative light. In a scenario where there is a bully, a victim and bystanders, he said there are no winners and bullying can lead victims to develop poor mental health and distorted views of the world.
He adds when children are told to avoid bullies, it also adds legitimacy to the bully’s behavior and the idea the victim is not welcome in a classroom environment or other elsewhere.
“I think schools should be safe places where no child should feel unsafe, unwelcome and unloved,” said Ahimbisibwe.
Besides identifying bullying behaviour, Ahimbisibwe adds the book also aims to address bystanders to bullying and say ‘enough.’
“How is it possible, that as a society, we have children growing up and thinking, ‘This is okay, if it’s not directed at me or against so-and-so, I can just look the other way,'” said Ahimbisibwe. , adding peers can help break the cycle of bullying.
Growing up in rural Uganda, Ahimbisibwe said he experienced bullying while trying to obtain an education. Now, Ahimbisibwe thinks bullying is a learned human behavior and it can be unlearned.
“At the end of the day, we’re all going to have challenges in life, but they don’t define us,” said Ahimbisibwe. “It’s how we choose to respond.”
As a parent, Ahimbisibwe is currently teaching his children about bullying and how to speak out against it. While writing this book, he read them a copy of the first draft.
“All of us should be able to create schools, communities and places where each of us, whether a child or an adult, feel safe to grow and thrive and contribute, not conform.”