On June 9 I was at the United Nations in New York to give the keynote address at a side event of the annual conference of states parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “Voices of People Affected by Leprosy” featured leprosy for the first time in the history of the conference and I am very grateful to Mr. Javed Abidi, the chairperson of Disabled People’s International, for helping to make this happen.
He told the event that more had to be done to bridge the gap between communities of people affected by leprosy and those otherwise disabled, saying that among disabled people there should not be any discrimination and that “these two groups have to be brought together so we can inspire each other and give each other confidence.”
Giving the viewpoint of people affected by leprosy were Mr. Jose Ramirez, Jr. of IDEA USA and Dr. P.K. Gopal. of IDEA India. Dr. Gopal (in photo) said that among the immediate needs of people affected by leprosy in his country, educational support for their families was very important for improving their children’s quality of life. “Not only leprosy-affected people, but children who do not have leprosy, also suffer from stigma and discrimination.”
I told the audience of around 70 people that I hoped this event would be the start of fresh opportunities for cooperation among all persons with disabilities and that it would create new possibilities to shorten the long road ahead to creating a truly inclusive society. As Mr. Ramirez rightly said in his presentation, “We made history today.”