Health and Human Right Award at the Opening Ceremony of International Council of Nurses 2017 Congress

Barcelona, Spain

I am truly honored to receive this distinguished award in the field of health and human rights from the International Council of Nurses, and I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity to address you today.

Leprosy is a disease, but it is also a social problem in that it is associated with stigma. Patients and those who have recovered face discrimination, which is a violation of their human rights.

I believe that ensuring their human rights is as important as curing the disease. This means addressing stigma and the discrimination that they suffer. Based on this philosophy, my work has focused on both the fields of health and human rights.

I am very encouraged by the support that the International Council of Nurses, as nursing professionals, have shown for this approach. And I am heartened by your determination to not only care for leprosy patients, but to also confront the stigma of leprosy.

On my travels to leprosy endemic countries, I often ask children what they would like to be when they grow up. Many tell me that they want to be a nurse. They dream of becoming a nurse someday. This shows just how much you have touched the hearts and minds of so many people. I have also witnessed this myself. I have met many nurses caring for and counseling those affected by leprosy and suffering from its stigma, and I am filled with respect for your dedication and devotion to your work.

In Brazil, I met a nurse working at a regional health post where local residents were examined for leprosy. Besides carefully searching for signs of leprosy, he also provided advice and counselling to the patients and their families who were shocked to hear the diagnosis. He carefully explained the treatment method and gave them encouragement.

In Indonesia, I met a nurse who paid visits to each home in the area, and diagnosed a four-year old patient, the youngest leprosy patient I have ever met. She saw that prejudice against leprosy was still very strong, and people were hesitant to seek treatment for fear of discrimination. Thanks to her close attention and dedication, the four-year old girl was able to receive treatment at an early stage.

These are only two of the many devoted and dedicated nurses that I have met. In this way, I have been encouraged by those in the nursing profession. You have helped me continue my struggle against leprosy as a disease and its stigma.

For this reason, this award is not mine alone. I would like to share this honor with all of you in the nursing profession, who seek to relieve the physical and mental suffering of patients and their families, without prejudice or discrimination. I would also like to share this honor with the many nurses who are providing physical and emotional care for those who are affected by leprosy.

We are still on the way to achieving our goal. Receiving this award today has given us further encouragement to meet new challenges.

In acceptance of this distinguished award, I pledge to work together with you who have made such an enormous contribution thus far. Together, I would like to realize the goal of a world without leprosy and the stigma associated with it.