Latest appeal aligns with disability movement for end to stigma and discrimination.
|Delegates gather for a commemorative photo at the end of the launch ceremony.|
The 13th Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy was launched from New Delhi on January 30, 2018, endorsed by Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI).
Since its inception in 2006, the annual appeal has been supported by a wide range of individuals and organizations, and this year’s appeal added another influential voice to a growing list that includes faith leaders, parliamentarians, the legal, nursing and medical professions, and national human rights organizations.
Established in 1981, DPI is the world’s first cross-disability organization. It promotes the human rights of persons with disabilities of any kind through full participation, equality of opportunity and development.
Under its global chair, Javed Abidi, DPI has been taking steps in partnership with The Nippon Foundation to reach out to persons affected by leprosy and facilitate their inclusion in the global disability movement. Its endorsement of this year’s Global Appeal represents a further such step.
Some 250 people were present at the launch ceremony, which opened with a performance by a choir composed of children living in a leprosy colony in Delhi. This was followed by a short video message from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres after which the audience heard from Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa; DPI’s Abidi; Forum of Parliamentarians for a Leprosy-Free India chairperson Dinesh Trivedi; U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore; and the WHO’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Dr. Poonam Singh, whose remarks were read out on her behalf. Also speaking were Vagavathali Narsappa, president of India’s Association of People Affected by Leprosy (APAL), and Tarun Das, chairman of Sasakawa India Foundation (S-ILF).
In her wide-ranging remarks, the U.N.’s deputy human rights commissioner noted: “Persons affected by leprosy and their families are not asking for special treatment—they are demanding equal treatment; for their legally binding, universal human rights to be fulfilled and for states to act decisively—and accountably—to fulfill their duties to this end.”
She also stressed: “Rights are for the best and the worst of us; for each and every one of us; to the exclusion of none of us, in the interests of all of us.”
S-ILF Chairman Das placed his faith in a new generation, citing the success of a three-day youth festival held prior to the appeal that brought together young people from leprosy colonies and college students. “Maybe my generation has failed (to end discrimination), but maybe youth can succeed,” he said.
The organizers also received video messages from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and from popular Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan, who quoted Mother Teresa’s famous lines: “The greatest disease today is not TB or leprosy, it is being unwanted and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love.”
With the speeches and messages concluded, representatives from DPI joined other dignitaries on stage for the reading of the appeal, which had been endorsed by over 90 DPI national member assemblies.
“We will work together with persons affected by leprosy to speak out and advocate for greater social participation,” DPI pledged. “In working toward our common goal of an inclusive society, we will share knowledge and experience with persons affected by leprosy.”
At a conference on leprosy and disability that followed the appeal, DPI did exactly that. (see facing page)