Leprosy still affects some of Nepal’s poorest communities. It perpetuates poverty and disability, and stigmatizes people with leprosy. This stigma prevents people – especially women – from participating socially in their communities.
To overcome this stigma, the RECLAIM project trained affected men and women to run local self-care groups. The groups encourage people to seek treatment and provide support to others affected by this commonly misunderstood disease. These self-care groups evolve into self-help groups, offering literacy classes and providing services to their communities. Members see better social inclusion and reduced stigma.
For Patili Maya – a member of the Ranichuri self-help group – her journey has been remarkable. Her group repaired a road to give village children easier access to the local government school – the same road she was once forbidden to use because of her status as a person affected by leprosy.
Kishori Yadhav was terrified when he found out he had leprosy. Members of his village in Dhanusha district still believed in the myths surrounding the disease and he feared being banished from his home. Even his wife kept her distance, saying hurtful things to him.
After treatment, the Lalgadh Leprosy Service Centre taught Kishori and his wife about leprosy and the challenges that people affected face. He joined a self-care training course hosted by the centre and took the new skills he acquired back to his village. He now leads a self-help group that has organised basic literacy training for Dalit or ‘Untouchable’ women. The group also provided low-interest loans for group members from their monthly savings scheme. Kishori now enjoys respect from his community and most importantly, his wife.
The RECLAIM project, implemented by the Nepal Leprosy Trust with support from American Leprosy Missions, tracked the impact group membership had on poverty.
The project demonstrated that self-care group membership can lead to improved social inclusion and more productive living.
Assessment of 50 groups comprising almost 900 people revealed that most members voluntarily became involved in community development activities. After 3 years, the study found that many had significantly improved their financial situation.
Kishori Yadhav was terrified when he found out he had leprosy. His small village in Dhanusha district still believed in the myths surrounding the disease and he feared being banished from his home.