Character sizeLargeSmall

WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

Getting People to ‘Think Leprosy Now’

A networking event, a “bibliobattle” and a photo exhibition focus minds on leprosy.

Some take-home messages from World Café

Under the banner of Think Leprosy Now, a number of side events were held in conjunction with this year’s launch of Global Appeal 2016.

On January 27, a networking event styled as a World Café was held at The Nippon Foundation building in Tokyo. Taking its cue from this year’s appeal, which was endorsed by Junior Chamber International, the theme of the event was “Things young people can do.”

The audience of around 70 people, many of them students, listened as the evening’s invited guests from Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria and the Philippines introduced themselves. The guests included people affected by leprosy, family members and supporters.

Next, each of the guests moved to a table representing their country, marked by a national flag. Participants then “visited” a country for 20 minutes, before traveling to two more countries during the course of the evening. During their stay in each, they learned more about the situation on the ground and discussed what role young people could play in helping to eliminate discrimination. As the ideas flowed, they were jotted down on slips of paper.

At the end of a productive evening, participants wrote down their suggestions for what actions young people can take, or what had impressed them most about their country visits.


Champion battler (Photo:

A “bibliobattle” is a concept originating in Japan in which presenters have five minutes to talk up a book, following which there is a Q&A with each of the presenters, or “battlers,” and then the audience votes on a “champion” book.

On January 31 in Tokyo, five battlers presented books they had read about leprosy. The books included An (Sweet Red Bean Paste) by Durian Sukegawa and Watashi ga suteta onna (The Girl I Left Behind) by Shusaku Endo. In their presentations, they spoke about the impact the books had had on their lives and what impressed them about the characters.

The champion book was Umarete wa naranai ko toshite by Ryoko Miyasato. It tells the story of a girl whose parents are affected by leprosy and the hardships they faced, as well as her own struggles in education, marriage and family relations, and how she maintained her dignity throughout.


“Think about leprosy, think about people”

Natsuko Tominaga has been a photographer with The Nippon Foundation for 14 years. During that time, she has made numerous visits overseas with the Goodwill Ambassador, documenting his visits to communities of people affected by leprosy all over the world.

“Think about leprosy, think about people” is the title of a traveling exhibition featuring around 50 of her images ranging from India to Ethiopia. They depict the lives of people affected by leprosy and provide a window on a world unfamiliar to many, yet recognizable in the humanity of her subjects.

Tominaga’s work was complemented by images created in Japan by photographers Akira Kurosaki and Nobuyuki Yaegashi, who have spent years documenting the lives of sanatoria residents with whom they have formed close relationships.

Yaegashi writes: “For a person affected by leprosy to agree to be photographed means coming out and taking a step into society. It involves a huge decision, and photography is a way of backing them up. I want to show the strength they possess to survive a harsh life.”