SILF presents Rising to Dignity Awards on Anti-Leprosy Day.
Every year, January 30 - the martyrdom day of Mahatma Gandhi - is observed as Anti-Leprosy Day in India. It is also the day when the Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (SILF) presents its Rising to Dignity Awards. The awards recognize outstanding examples of successful micro-enterprises that have received grants from SILF under the livelihood funding initiative it started in 2008.
The winning projects are all based in self-settled colonies of persons affected by leprosy. They were selected on the basis of the hard work and commitment demonstrated by those running them.
Honored this year were a tile-fitting unit from Maharashtra, a goat-rearing enterprise from Odisha and a hawker-vendor enterprise from Uttar Pradesh.
Handing out the prizes at a ceremony in New Delhi were former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and Madhu Goud Yaskhi, MP. They are the convenors of an informal cross-party parliamentarians' group that was set up to generate awareness of leprosy and end the stigma it attracts.
In his annual Message on the occasion of World Leprosy Day, the president of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) addressed the issue of discriminatory laws. ILEP President René Stäheli stated: "A disease is no reason to discriminate against anyone - ever. The role of the law in influencing behavior cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately centuries of fear and misunderstanding of leprosy have perpetuated the existence of legislation that allows discriminatory behavior on grounds of leprosy, even though laws should protect people. The continued existence of such laws should not be taken as evidence of their need and justification."
A rapid diagnostic test for leprosy was registered in Brazil in January. The test has been developed by the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) of the United States with the support of American Leprosy Missions.
The blood test, said to be similar to a pregnancy test, is intended to diagnose cases of leprosy early, before nerve damage sets in. IDRI is also working to develop a leprosy vaccine.
This is the 60th issue of this newsletter. Its publication coincides with the 60th World Leprosy Day, the day launched in 1954 by French humanitarian Raoul Follereau and celebrated on the last Sunday in January.
Folleaureau inaugurated World Leprosy Day as a "universal mobilization of hearts and minds" to draw attention to leprosy and the issues facing those afflicted by the disease. This newsletter was started in the belief that making more people aware of leprosy would assist the campaign to eliminate it as a public health problem.
In the ten years since our first issue in April 2003, much has happened.
We are now looking beyond the leprosy elimination campaign to ways of further reducing the burden of leprosy in the world. Addressing the human rights aspect of the disease has assumed increasing importance. A UN resolution adopted in 2010 was a historic development in this regard, but there is still much work to do.
The late Raoul Follereau would doubtless have found it bittersweet that the day he initiated is still being marked. But while there is still leprosy in the world, the day he created has become an important way of remembering that the job is not done. We salute Follereau's humanitarian legacy and pledge to complete what he started.