The Youth Festival Marks an Inclusive National Movement ‘Youth Against Leprosy’ to Rise Against Stigma and Discrimination Against the Affected

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New Delhi, Delhi, India

• Sasakawa – India Leprosy Foundation (SILF) organizes nationwide camps annually to raise awareness and sensitize youngsters about the fight against Leprosy and behavior change through a concerted campaign #YouAreNotAlone

• Till date more than 20 colleges and around 2,000 students have been trained under the program

• The festival was a part of S-ILF’s programme to raise awareness about leprosy as part of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, whose contribution to end leprosy is well known

Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) organized ‘Youth Against Leprosy’, a National Youth Festival aimed to raise the awareness levels about leprosy amongst the younger generation. Held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi, the festival was a finale of all participating colleges from all over India that undertook the program and training. The festival witnessed widespread participation of youth that engaged in creative activities to make the event a success.

S-ILF’s annual youth festival provides a platform for young people from non-leprosy backgrounds (students from different colleges/universities) to mingle and interact with youth from leprosy colonies. These interactions are aimed to bust myths and create social bridges among college youth regarding leprosy. Youth Festival helps to bridge the “us versus them” divide. The students are connected as a community through the campaign initiative named #YouAreNotAlone.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman NITI Ayog graced the occasion as the Chief Guest along with Mr. YoheiSasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy eradication, who was present as the Guest of Honor.

Mr. YoheiSasakawa has also been nominated for the Gandhi Peace Prize by Government of India, for his commitment towards raising awareness on Leprosy.In his address to the youth at the festival, Dr. Rajiv Kumar, said, “I am pleased to be a part of this great initiative by Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation. Youth are the harbingers of change and the encouraging number of participants today at the festival gives us hope that as a country we are united and take the onus of fighting the stigma related to leprosy. As a member of the Indian government and as a citizen of this country I support the cause of leprosy and feel that everyone should come forward to mainstream those affected by leprosy & their families. It is important that we encourage early detection and treatment thereby Leprosy be eliminated from the country. However, this can happen only if we fight the stigma together as a society.”

The participating youth have been enrolled and trained by S-ILF under its Education and Advocacy & Awareness programs. These youngsters are actively involved in bringing mainstream Leprosy affected persons and their families by providing them a dignified life.

Addressing the event Mr. Tarun Das, Chairman Sasakawa -India Leprosy Foundation said, “Unfortunately when it comes to leprosy there has been little or no education to address the several myths surrounding leprosy that result in stigma and discrimination of those affected. The younger generation, in particular, has very little or no understanding of leprosy as a disease. Whatever little they know is often vague and reaffirms the stigma against the disease. At the foundation, we are committed to sensitize the youth so that they can spread the word and contribute towards the elimination of stigma leading to a more inclusive and empathetic society.

About Youth Festival

Through its work towards the cause of Leprosy, Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation has come across the fact that there is a lack of information in India about leprosy being a non-contagious, non-hereditary and fully curable disease. This lack of scientific information perpetuates the fear and stigma against leprosy leading to discrimination and ostracization of not only the people affected and cured of the disease but also of their families and children who are not affected. To ensure that people affected by leprosy are not denied their basic human rights, Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation started spreading awareness in different sections of society. One of its initiatives is the Youth Festival aimed to engage, mobilize and aware these young citizens, to eradicate the stigma against leprosy through collaborating with different colleges/ educational organizations. We at Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation believe that Youth are effective harbingers of change in social attitudes and behaviors and each child has the potential of becoming a brand ambassador for removal of stigma against leprosy forever and formation of a more inclusive society. We hope to reach out the maximum number of Youth every year through Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation’s new initiative The Youth Festival.

About Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation

Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) was instituted in November 2006, with inspiration from Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy eradication. The Foundation’s mission is to end the stigma against the disease and ensure equal social, economic and cultural opportunities for those affected by increasing their social acceptability through the dissemination of scientific information. The Foundation aims to make a difference in the lives of persons affected by leprosy and their families all across the country. It is moving ahead on the lines of its mission and vision of integrating persons affected by leprosy into main-stream society by ensuring equal social, economic and cultural opportunities for them. The Foundation is guided by an eminent board which has Mr. Tarun Das, Former Mentor CII, as its Chairman.

Media contact details:
Tehseen Zaidi

Manager Communications & Advocacy, Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (SILF)+91-9650465252

[email protected]