Global Appeal gets a youthful shot in the arm from Junior Chamber International.
Harnessing the power and passion of youth in the fight against leprosy-related discrimination, Global Appeal 2016 was launched at a ceremony in Tokyo on January 26.
Junior Chamber International (JCI), an organization of young people aged between 18 and 40 with 200,000 members in 130 countries, became the latest organization to endorse the annual appeal, which calls for an end to the stigma and discrimination that people affected by leprosy continue to face.
Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa, who initiated the appeal in 2006, said he had been keen to involve the younger generation, hence his delight that JCI had agreed to collaborate. “JCI members are the future business leaders of the world and are actively involved in community issues,” he told the audience of 250. “I am very hopeful that opportunities to think about leprosy in different countries and regions will increase.”
JCI president for 2016 Paschal Dike from Nigeria said, “The philosophy of JCI is that young people have the potential to create significant impact in their communities and around the world.” By signing the Global Appeal, he said, JCI was creating awareness among its members that people affected by leprosy are still being discriminated against in various parts of the world, and encouraging them to find solutions.
“I am challenging our members to act — not to wait for other people to find the solutions, but to take the initiative and just act,” he said.
|Abe: “We have to learn from the past.”|
The ceremony was held in Tokyo for the second year running and once again Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, and Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shinozaki, showed their support for the appeal by putting in an appearance. Noting that Japan’s past policies had forced people with leprosy into isolation and infringed on their human rights, the prime minister expressed his hope that the Global Appeal would be an opportunity for people around the world to gain a proper understanding of leprosy and take action to eliminate prejudice and discrimination. “We have to learn from the past so that we do not repeat the same mistakes over again,” he said.
Representatives of organizations supporting past appeals, including the International Bar Association (IBA), International Council of Nurses (ICN) and World Medical Association (WMA), also spoke. Tim Hughes, IBA’s deputy executive director, said the IBA supports the Global Appeal wholeheartedly.
“It is very clear to us that the discrimination faced by people affected by leprosy is a direct violation of the fundamental rights and dignities offered to all people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and therefore must be addressed with urgency. It is also clear to us that this discrimination is illegal in international law.”
Representing people affected by leprosy, Hilarion Guia, chair of the Coalition of Leprosy Advocates of the Philippines, said that while substantial headway has been made in the fight against leprosy, “this success must not dull us into complacency because the battle is not yet over.” Later he joined JCI President Dike, Ramvarai Sah, a trustee of India’s Association of People Affected by Leprosy, and Roshni — a Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation scholarship recipient who goes by one name — in reading aloud the text of the appeal.
Following the launching ceremony, an international symposium was held in the afternoon on “Discrimination and How to Prevent It: Lessons from Leprosy.” It began with a brief overview of the current leprosy situation, given by Dr. Erwin Cooreman, team leader of the WHO’s Global Leprosy Program.
“The data points to stagnation in leprosy control over the past five years,” he said. “This is a tide we need to turn with the involvement of all stakeholders and this is what our new strategy hopes to address in the coming years.”
This was followed by two panel discussions: “Health and Human Rights — Combating Discrimination” and “Views of Younger Generations — What We Can Learn from Leprosy.” (see following pages)
The final session was a talk event on “Leprosy, Discrimination and Religion — Is a New Civilization Possible?” featuring Fumihiko Takayama, a non-fiction writer, and Tetsuo Yamaori, director general of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, with actress and novelist Yuri Nakae acting as facilitator.
Closing remarks were delivered by Professor Kenzo Kiikuni, president of Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, which acted as co-organizer of the event. Addressing the issue of discrimination, he echoed the comments of JCI President Dike earlier in the day when he issued a call for everyone to be part of the solution. “Knowing is not enough,” Professor Kiikuni said. “You have to act.”
“We will aspire for a world in which individuals affected by leprosy and their families can live free from discrimination and enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everybody else in order to reach their greatest potential.”
— From text of Global Appeal 2016