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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Accounts of 'Dignity Regained'

Testimonials challenge negative stereotypes of leprosy

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(From left to right) Dignity Regained collections for Cambodia (published in 2010), China (2009) and Indonesia (2011).

Six years ago, a collection of real-life stories about people's experiences with leprosy was published in India under the title Dignity Regained. Since then, similar works have been produced in six more countries: Cambodia, China, Ghana, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The books are planned, edited, designed and produced by groups of people affected by leprosy or those close to them, and are published in the local language. As well as serving as a source of encouragement to those in the midst of coping with leprosy, they are also a tool to sensitize the public and challenge widely held perceptions that people affected by leprosy are somehow incapable of leading normal, productive lives.

The accounts do not gloss over the obstacles that society places in the way of a person affected by leprosy, and not all the stories find their subjects in a happy place. From the original volume come these thoughts from Najima Begum: "Leprosy has not only affected me physically. It has left me mentally wounded and scarred for life."

Others have found a way to cope. Lu Zwen of China says: "'Plum blossoms emit sweet scent in the bitter cold.' I have experienced so many ups and downs not only of pain from illness and hardship of life, but also pessimism and despair in my heart. Now I have prevailed over all these ordeals."

In the Philippines, Inneng Paderi writes: "At present I am happily married and having a satisfied life. The scars on my skin are just shadows in the past, not the ruins of my life."

And from Ghana, Nana Kwame Osei reflects: "I faced many discriminations and stigma, but I said to myself that maybe it is my crossroad. I learnt how to paint houses from the painter working in my leprosy hospital and became a good painter. Thanks to this skill, many people became my friends. They also come to me when they are facing problems in their lives and I give them advice."

The books are published with support from the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation