Anwei Law's remembrance of Bernard Punikai'a, who died earlier this year, lets Bernard's own words serve as the best tribute to a man whose "Quest for Dignity" inspired an international social movement for the empowerment of people affected by leprosy. A 1998 presentation he made in Beijing (quoted on page 6), which described his journey from discrimination to acceptance and participation, showed how far he had come and why he served as such an inspiration to others.
Inspiring people affected by leprosy in India to take charge of their lives is the role of the National Forum, which held its latest regional conference in Lucknow in March (page 2). The Forum is committed to the goals of integration and empowerment, and is building up a network of leaders among the country's self-settled colonies and generating momentum for change. Yet the conference was also an occasion to confront the reality on the ground: many delegates lead a hard existence, and wonder whether prospects will be any better for their children.
Empowerment is on the mind of Kopila Basnet, a lawyer in Nepal's Jhapa District (page 3). Kopila was the emcee of an IDEA Nepal workshop for women affected by leprosy held last December. She describes being inspired by the transformation that came over the participants, but notes that so many more women who would also have benefited from the event did not have the opportunity to attend. This too is the reality on the ground, even at the local level.
For many people affected by leprosy, opportunities for empowerment remain far off. But if every person who makes the transition can blaze a trail for others to follow, progress will surely be made.