JCI National Organizations in four countries work to change attitudes toward leprosy.
|Students at St. Antony’s Higher Secondary School at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, hold up their certificates at the end of their course on leprosy.|
When Junior Chamber International (JCI) endorsed the 2016 Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy, it presented an opportunity for JCI’s young active citizens to undertake projects that could contribute toward ending discrimination in countries where leprosy still exists.
JCI Brazil, JCI India, JCI Indonesia and JCI Nigeria took up the challenge. With the support of The Nippon Foundation they explored ways of focusing attention on the issue of leprosy-related stigma and changing the way that the public tends to think about the disease.
JCI Brazil shared information on leprosy with members at both national and local events, including its National Convention in October 2016 that was attended by nearly 400 participants.
It realized many of its members were either not previously aware of leprosy or lived in areas where it is not a major concern. It then looked at how they could have a positive impact at the local level on ending the stigma that people affected by leprosy face.
For this, JCI Brazil partnered with the nonprofit organization MORHAN and developed a variety of marketing materials, such as signs, shirts and buttons, to provide members with the tools to help create awareness in the community.
As JCI Brazil learned more about leprosy, it found that many remote parts of the country are still struggling to get access to medication and health care. JCI Brazil is now working with local partners to create an additional project to help provide health care in areas where it is most needed.
JCI India developed a comprehensive awareness-raising course in collaboration with the Association of People Affected by Leprosy (APAL) and the WHO. The course was designed to educate youth about leprosy and equip them with the skills to educate others.
The course focuses on understanding the disease and its treatment and also tackles human rights issues. It empowers young people to recognize the role they can play in ending discrimination by educating those in their community.
Since the start of the project, JCI India has developed 50 trainers who are now certified to administer the three-hour course at schools in six states. At the end of the course, students receive a certificate and take a pledge to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy.*
One of the initiatives taken by JCI Indonesia was to produce a documentary film. This followed research visits that it commissioned to the provinces of East Java, East Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi and Banten to learn about the issues that persons affected by leprosy face.
The documentary, which can be viewed on YouTube, provides a compassionate, thorough and balanced look at the lives of people affected by leprosy. It was completed after the producers received feedback from persons affected by leprosy as well as local stakeholders.
As part of its awareness-building efforts, JCI Indonesia partnered with the Health Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry, PerMaTa, Youth Makassar, several universities and all JCI local organizations throughout Indonesia. It is currently looking at developing additional projects.
JCI Nigeria opted to launch a nationwide media campaign to create awareness and share information about leprosy with the public. It produced several radio commercials, TV ads, billboards, social media promotions, press releases and news stories.
In order to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day lives of people affected by leprosy, JCI Nigeria visited leprosy villages and worked to build trust with the residents. This has encouraged JCI members to consider ways of securing additional resources and developing partnerships to address the issues these communities face.
“Many Nigerians do not know that leprosy is a curable disease, and this has resulted in unnecessary stigmatization. If the public understands the disease better, people affected by leprosy will feel free to seek treatment at most general hospitals where treatment is free, instead of segregating themselves,” said Olatunji Oyeyemi, 2016 JCI Nigeria President. “As young people, we can educate our peers nationwide in order to establish a society that is compassionate toward people affected by leprosy.”**
* JCI India’s trainers have reached over 28,000 students at nearly 200 schools. Many students have gone on to create their own projects.
** Junior Chamber International is continuing its partnership with The Nippon Foundation and will be expanding the already existing projects through August 2018.