It’s OK to be different

Arish Naresh believes standing up against bullying is a strong step towards elimination of wider discrimination in Aotearoa.

Arish is the national vice president of the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils, on the board of trustees for UNICEF New Zealand and has created his own campaign to promote inclusion and diversity. Despite these accomplishments, he still remembers the effect bullying had on him growing up.

“I grew up in Fiji and I was constantly bullied for being nerdy and geeky.”

He remembers feeling ashamed of being different in his high school. In primary school he only ever wanted to go to high school and continue learning, but never imagined high school would become two of the worse years of his life. Even his passion for knowledge and learning couldn’t protect Arish from the constant bullying.

“At the end of year 10, I couldn't bear the bullying anymore and decided to leave that school.

“My family were disappointed in me, but I wasn’t able to tell them the reasons why I couldn’t go back to school. I thought I was a failure and felt guilty about it for a long time.”

Speaking up is important

Despite his experience, Arish feels stronger than ever and wants to participate in Pink Shirt Day to take action and speak up to stop bullying.

“I’ll support Pink Shirt Day by wearing my shirt on the day, donating and encouraging others to do the same, in order to raise awareness,” he says.

Today, Arish is able to look back and know that asking for help from friends and family or someone you trust is important, so you never need to feel alone or guilty for being bullied.

“To me, Pink Shirt Day helps to make New Zealand an inclusive, multicultural society that is free from discrimination and empowers young Kiwis to be proud of their differences.”

Arish has launched a new Facebook campaign to promote inclusion and diversity. Called OWDSOCKS – Opportunities without Discrimination, the campaign has the motto, “It’s OK to be different” and has over 10,000 likes on Facebook.

Find out more about OWDSOCKS or search on Facebook or Twitter for #OWDsocks.

arish pink shirt crop

“Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!”