The Goodwill Ambassador visits with residents and staff of Hospital Gonzalo Gonzales in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016.
I seek to realize an inclusive society in which people affected by leprosy can fully participate without fear of discrimination. To this end, I have worked with governments and supported organizations of people affected by the disease in different parts of the world.
To make an inclusive society a reality, however, it is necessary to strengthen the voices of those concerned. In June 2015, I cooperated with Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) in organizing a side event at the annual conference of states parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities held at UN headquarters in New York.
The side event was titled “Voices of People Affected by Leprosy” and was made possible through the efforts of DPI Chairperson Javed Abidi, who reached out to organizations of people affected by leprosy in several countries and developed close ties with them. This was the first time in the history of the conference that leprosy had been featured.
As a result of this event, both people affected by leprosy and those otherwise disabled agreed to seek ways to deepen their cooperation, no matter what the cause of their disability.
This was an example of persons from different backgrounds who had never collaborated before coming together to create the foundations on which to build an inclusive society in the future.
For such to be realized, it is very important that their voices reach the rest of society and that they participate in any decision-making process that affects their quality of life.
This November, at the initiative of the DPI, a conference was held in India designed to promote the integration of leprosy into the disability movement worldwide. Delegates from the host country, Nepal and Indonesia engaged in productive discussions.
It is my belief that when people affected by leprosy link up with other groups and organizations, find common cause and together make their voices heard, this benefits both parties by boosting their influence.
This represents a big step toward an inclusive society.
- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador