Global Appeal 2018 Launch Ceremony ~To End Stigma and Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy~

New Delhi, India

I would like to extend my warmest welcome to the 13th Global Appeal launch ceremony. This year, I am happy to be back in India once again, where we are presenting the Global Appeal for the fourth time since our initial launch in 2006 to share this very meaningful occasion with all of you present here today and the entire world.

I began this Global Appeal with the aim of changing the mindset of society regarding leprosy. Over the past twelve years, I have worked with partners in various fields, including law, medicine, nursing, and business, among others. Our joint objective has always been to end stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.

Today, The Nippon Foundation is pleased to announce that Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) is in full partnership in endorsing this Global Appeal. The two organizations are both committed to a joint action to achieve our common goal, that is to achieve of an inclusive society where everyone’s rights are respected and can participate in society.

Leprosy has long been misunderstood. Because of the deep-rooted misconceptions, many people who have been affected by leprosy and their families still continue to suffer discrimination even to this day.

There are still many who believe leprosy is a curse, and begin to lose hope. They have come to accept discrimination as something they must endure and learn to live with. Some do not know that they have rights as a human being— that they are denied their humanity.

One day, I was talking with a man who had been driven out of his village after being diagnosed with leprosy and now lived isolated and alone. He seemed to accept this isolation as something natural. When I told him that there was no reason to accept being ostracized by the village, he had no idea what I meant. That is an experience I had in one part of India.

When I shared this experience in India with Mr Abidi, Global Chair of DPI, he told me that he had not realized that the disability movement at large had neglected the cause of persons affected by leprosy. He also saw that their concerns did not feature much in the mainstream disability rights discourse. He then proposed that we should work together.

Mr. Abidi is a leading advocate for the disability rights. I am very moved by his strong commitment to create a more inclusive society. I am also very encouraged by his powerful message to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy.

Persons affected by leprosy are also becoming strong advocates in the struggle to eliminate stigma against leprosy. Today, we have Mr. Narsappa who will address us later, and other persons affected by leprosy who are active in many parts of the world.

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned that I began this Global Appeal by calling for a change in the mindset of society regarding leprosy. Let us use this occasion to reaffirm our commitment to end the stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone at DPI for this opportunity to work together on something that means so much to both of us. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to the Government of India, WHO, Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation, and all who have lent their support to this Global Appeal.

And to the members of APAL and all those affected by leprosy, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you all for being at the center of the movement to end the stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy.