Monday 13th November marks the start of Anti-bullying week and the theme for this year is ‘All Different All Equal’. 

All children deserve to be valued and respected, no matter who they are. Anti-bullying week will help children to discuss how they can be themselves without fear of being treated differently or bullied.

Our work helps to support children who may face bullying because they have been affected by leprosy.

This blog shares the story of Neru and shows how appearance and prejudice can lead to bullying, but also how better understanding can help children. It can be discussed with children to help them understand why we’re All Different All Equal.

Neru (pictured below) lives in India where many people are still affected by diseases like leprosy.

She was just eight years old when she discovered that she had leprosy. She told her parents that her her right hand and leg felt numb. As this got worse her hand became stiff and she found it harder to hold things easily. Later she found it harder to walk as the leprosy made it difficult to lift her leg.

Neru’s mum took her to the doctor who told her that she had leprosy. The doctor gave her medicine to treat the disease.

But when Neru went back to school, a dinner lady shouted at her and told her not to come to school any more. Neru ran home from school. She felt so sad about what she had been told that she stopped going to school.

People in her village were scared of catching leprosy and her family were told that they could not use the water pump that everybody else in the village used. Neru became frightened of the people in her village and couldn’t go anywhere to play. When people came to visit she hid her hand so that they could not see it.

Although the medicine cured the leprosy, Neru still looked different because of her hand anf foot. Neru was being treated differently because of her illness and didn’t go to school or see her friends for over two years.

Earlier this year she spent a month and a half in hospital. The doctors were able to help her to use her hand properly again and to walk more easily and Neru made friends with other children who were also in the hospital.

But she was still frightened about going back to school because she did not know how she would be treated. After Lepra visited the school to tell them about leprosy, Neru was welcomed back. Even the dinner lady took Neru’s hand and said that she was glad she was cured. The dinner lady said that in future she would look out for other children who might have leprosy and refer them to hospital.

Finally, Neru is being treated in the same way as all her friends.

This Anti-bullying week, you may like to share this story with children you are close to, to open up discussions about bullying and the importance of equality.

Here are some questions you may like to raise after reading the story:

• Was it fair for the dinner lady to tell Neru to leave, what could she have done instead?
• How do think Neru felt when she ran away from school?
• Is it fair to treat other people differently because of their appearance?
• What can we do to make sure that people we know (perhaps at school) don’t ever feel like Neru?

To read more stories of children of adults affected by leprosy

Click here