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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

INTERVIEW: Born Leader

Muslim Momin draws on his own experiences to help others like him.

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Muslim Momin shares his ideas with members of the Bathanaha self-help group, one of several in Mahottari district.

Why is self-care important?

Self-care is very important to control disabilities and deformities in leprosy. In my experience, people affected by leprosy face hostility and suffer discrimination when they have severe impairments and ulcers, and this restricts their participation in community life. Therefore, I put a huge effort into ensuring that members of my group practice self-care activities properly. I am in regular contact with Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre* to get shoes and other items that improve members' quality of life and prevent further disability. I also persuaded the Loharpatti Village Development Committee to provide us with land where we can practice self-care regularly. If our bodies are in good shape, then we can think about the future and our well being.

Self-empowerment is another important theme of the group, isn't it?

Members participate in determining their needs and work toward meeting them through income-generation projects supported by loans from the group. Before, it was a struggle to feed their families, educate their children and gain access to health care. Now, through businesses such as selling snacks and raising animals, many have been able to improve their economic circumstances and transform their lives for the better.

What other activities are the group involved in?

My self-help group is now working for equal access to food, water, housing, education and health care. We also want equal access to government development schemes and to enjoy the same rights as others in the community. I have participated in many meetings with NGOs and government officials, where I speak up for the human rights of people affected by leprosy. Beyond leprosy, I am also working to lift up the socio-economic condition of the poor, widows, women, Dalits (untouchables), children and vulnerable people.

What motivates you?

As a person affected by leprosy, I feel compassion for others like me. I refuse to accept they must suffer the kind of discrimination I suffered at the hands of my family and society. Because of my experiences, I want to raise awareness of leprosy-related disability, the importance of self-care, and also of the networks and resources that are available. Helping to prevent impairment and disability will lead to a reduction in the stigma attached to leprosy within our community.

What are your plans for the future?

To the end of my life, I will fight against leprosy, disability and stigma and help the lives of people through promoting self-care and knowledge about leprosy. Working on behalf of people affected by leprosy, the disabled, the poor, untouchables, widows and vulnerable people gives me happiness and satisfaction.

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Profile: Muslim Momin

Muslim Momin is facilitator of the Loharpatti Self-Help Group in Mahottari District in southeast Nepal. The group teaches people affected by leprosy self-care techniques to prevent injuries and impairment.

FOOTNOTE

* Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre is run by the Nepal Leprosy Trust. It is a major leprosy services center in southeast Nepal.