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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

REPORT: Working for a Living

Livelihood projects in Indian colonies recognized with “Rising to Dignity” Awards.

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Members of the successful pig-rearing project

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Harvesting crops

Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation used the occasion of India’s Anti-Leprosy Day earlier this year to hand out its fourth annual “Rising to Dignity” Awards at an event in New Delhi. SILF currently supports livelihood projects at self-settled leprosy colonies in 17 states across India, helping to provide colony residents with an alternative to begging. This year’s winners are from colonies in Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.

PIG-REARING

Chosen as the best enterprise was a pig-rearing operation run by a group of women from Champa in Chhattisgarh. Prior to starting this enterprise the women were dependent on begging and casual labor for their living. Today the project is very successful, resulting not only in increased household income but also making the women more confident and able to deal with outsiders — something they were not able to do before. 

At their own initiative they started a self-help group, initially contributing Rs 10 each. With improved earnings this contribution has increased, enabling them to start giving loans to members to meet their contingency financial needs for marriages, deaths, illnesses and their children’s education.

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Breeding pigs — and self-confidence too.

Next to be recognized was a group from the New Life Welfare Association, a colony in Tamil Nadu, whose members gave up begging to start a poultry farm. Despite initial setbacks, such as bird flu, within a year they had doubled the capacity of their business. Although most of them are middle aged, they have shown great enthusiasm for the project and have worked very hard for its success. 

With success has come increased social acceptance, raising members’ self-esteem and self-confidence. This in turn motivates them to ensure the continued success of the enterprise.

CULTIVATING THE LAND

The third group from Alwasa, Madhya Pradesh, was led by a woman who persuaded colony members to cultivate land that had been allotted to them but was lying vacant for want of funds.

As most members of the colony were middle aged and unable to take on hard physical work due to the effects of leprosy, they decided to invite youths from other colonies to come and settle there. Members were motivated to persist, despite initial hardships such as crop failure and excessive rains. 

Today each of the 15 members gets a daily wage. Gradually, they have also dispensed with relying on hired labor for tilling and harvesting, hiring machines instead. They do their own marketing and sell their produce after keeping what they need for themselves.