• By Pamela Deutsch

    Voice of the Child is the only organization in Israel that specializes in the development and implementation of programs preventing sexual harassment amongst children.

    I asked Ayelet, how she became involved with this issue?

    “While studying for my Master’s Degree in Educational Sociology, I took a seminar on gender and sexuality, and for my seminar paper I wrote about sexual harassment between hotel guests and employees.  During my research I discovered that there was lots of reading material about sexual harassment of adults, but there was a significant gap in information about sexual harassment among young children from a sociological point of view.”

    Born and raised in Jerusalem, Ayelet is an 18th generation Jerusalemite on her mother’s side and her father was from Afghanistan.  She attended the Rene Cassin High School in Jerusalem and served as a teacher-soldier in the Israel Defense Forces.  Ayelet obtained a  BA in Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Masters in Educational Sociology from the same institution.

    “At that point I decided to drop everything else I was doing, I had been working in at the Hebrew University Research Institute for Innovation in Education, and pursue a doctorate on the this topic.  My next discovery was that there were no sociologists in Israel who specialized in sexual harassment among young children.”  Hebrew University made a few suggestions about institutions where she might pursue a doctorate, but in the end, with three young children in home, she chose the closest option.  In 2004, after 4 years of research and writing, Ayelet received her PhD in Educational Sociology, from Anglia Polytechnic University (APU), England.

    After finishing her doctorate, Ayelet did not want her work just to be theoretical but to have practical application, so she approached the Ministry of Education.  In parallel, she formed a nonprofit organization , Kol Hayeled, and developed two educational programs for children from ages 5-8 and 10 -12, that focused on identifying, preventing and coping with bullying and sexual harassment between children and learning to behave with mutual respect towards one another.

    The Ministry sent Ayelet to the Department for Gender Equality, where she applied for and won a tender to provide educational programs in secular elementary schools.  This was a four-year contract, and Voice of the Child recently won a second tender for the provision of similar services.

    In the meanwhile Kol Hayeled has gone on to develop new programs for children and youth from ages 5-17, which alongside classroom programs that address issues such as safe behavior over the internet, include a play for teenagers that addresses sexual harassment, and which was presented in the Supreme Court last week.

    Evaluation of Voice of the Child programs has shown that they reduce the level of violence in the classroom, and raise gender awareness.

    I asked Ayelet, what comes next?

    “Our next move will include the adaptation of our programs and materials for Arabic speakers and possibly religious populations, and to steadily increase awareness to these issues amongst educators and parents.”

    Ayelet is married with 3 children and lives in Mevasseret Zion.

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