Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF), a registered Indian Charitable Trust, was incorporated in November, 2006. The person behind this foundation is Mr. Yohei Saskawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy Chairman of the Nippon Foundation.
Integrating leprosy cured people and their families into society by ending the discrimination faced by them.
To end the stigma against the disease and to ensure equal social, economic and cultural opportunities for those affected by leprosy.
The Sasakawa – India Leprosy Foundation, works with the 3Ds, ‘Determination, Dedication and Devotion’, to motivate leprosy affected and cured people by empowering them socially and economically. Its aim is to back those people who are affected badly by this acute disease, by putting in efforts to let them regain their rights and dignity. The foundation embarked its journey with its launch in October 2007, by Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Leprosy is a scary disease that brings goose-bumps to people although it has been medically proved that leprosy is not contagious, it is not hereditary and it is completely curable. Stigma against the disease is often worse than the disease itself. Rooted in fear, it is based on a great deal of misinformation and misconceptions prevalent in society about the disease, which results in the social and economic marginalisation, discrimination and deprivation
SILF works towards enabling those cured of leprosy to regain independence and sustainable means of livelihood through measures that enhance their skills and abilities to access market opportunities. We seek to integrate them into society rather than providing exclusive facilities which confine them in their narrow and excluded colonies.
Our scope of work, encompasses helping leprosy affected people and their children to gain access to education, training them in feasible livelihood streams and drawing them away from the demeaning and soul destroying activity of begging for alms. SILF arranges for microfinance opportunities for them and acts as a catalyst in putting the self-help groups among the leprosy affected in touch with other NGOs and charitable organisations that can help them restore a dignity and meaning to their lives. SILF also works towards raising awareness among different groups of people against social and economic discrimination of leprosy affected people.
To increase social acceptability of leprosy cured people and their families through dissemination of scientific information.
To create conditions that will enable them to have equal access to economic opportunities.
To attain the goal of eliminating stigma against leprosy affected people, SILF has adopted a triplet approach –
Communication and Advocacy
1. Sustainable Livelihood Approach
The fear factor attached with the disease and the mentality of people towards it deprives them opportunities of decent living in a dignified way. These people end up being dependent on donations for their survival. They also confront with employment problems, therefore it is important to create opportunities for self-employment, which are feasible, sustainable, profitable and match the skills and attitudes of the leprosy affected families.
SILF’s funding aims to bridge this gap by providing financial assistance for sustainable livelihood generation and also having a firm belief that such initiatives should be taken by people themselves in order to be sustainable and successful. SILF therefore, additionally supports trainings which would be useful in ensuring that income generating activities are viable and sustainable.
Together with active participation of colony leaders and the beneficiaries, and often taking the help of partner NGOs and livelihood experts, SILF:
– Explores and Identifies local livelihood options
– Assesses market feasibility of the different options
– Assesses skill and resource base of the beneficiaries
– Conducts feasibility studies
– Organizes appropriate trainings on needed skills & capacities with the help of partners
– Provides financial assistance for setting up their enterprises
SILF assists in a wide range of activities including project development, detailed business planning, strengthening group cohesion and formation of SHGs, book keeping as well as marketing guidance. Through its livelihood projects, SILF has extended its assistance to nearly approximately 1500 beneficiaries till date. Livelihood is the main flagship programme of SILF. It has implemented approx. 150 livelihood projects across 16 States in India till date where more than 1500 beneficiaries have received a total of Rs. 3.75 crores.
Ensuring access to education is essential to lay the foundation on which the children of leprosy affected households can build a better and more secure future. But often, children from leprosy affected families are constrained from pursuing secondary and higher studies by the poor economic status of their families. Although the majority of the children from the colonies go to some kind of schools, the level of education and learning is very poor and there are a large number that drop out. A large number are keen to pursue higher studies for which SILF with the help of NGOs and other partners helps to set up scholarships and loan facilities. But the majority of them need to develop some technical skill and get vocational training that will enable them to get employment.
SILF, acknowledging a strong need for vocational training among the youth developed its Skills to Employment Programme (STEP-UP). STEP UP provides financial assistance to the youth from self-settled leprosy colonies and through different training programmes develops their skills for various employment opportunities. To ensure that this training results in gainful employment, SILF includes motivational and career counselling as an essential part of assistance given to the selected candidates.
3. Communication and Advocacy
Human rights are fundamental and universal, prerogative of every human without discrimination. Right to dignity and dignified living is one right which runs through all rights, without which other rights have no meaning. This is the basic right that SILF is working towards for the people affected with leprosy.
No amount of efforts at social acceptance and rehabilitation through capacity building and financial assistance can be sustainable or successful without the eradication of the social stigma against leprosy. While education, training and employment facilitate social acceptance, concerted efforts have to be made to eradicate stigma generated because of misconception and lack of correct knowledge about the disease.
Prejudices are based on fears arising out ignorance and misinformation and can be overcome only through persistent and credible efforts at disseminating scientific facts about leprosy. Changing social attitudes and mind sets is a formidable task and requires a multipronged approach, in which the every section and sector of the society has an important role to play.
Therefore SILF has developed a multi-faceted approach in its awareness building, communications and advocacy activities. SILF reaches out to people in all walks of life, to encourage them to become ambassadors and remove misconceptions about leprosy. SILF works with educational institutions, media, politicians and parliamentarians, lawyers and social activists, government institutions and employers as well as corporate houses making them torch bearers for the cause of reintegrating leprosy cured people and their families into society by ending the discrimination faced by them.
At the same time, SILF engages in advocacy to provide a legal and institutional framework that in no way discriminates against the rights of the leprosy affected as equal citizens of the country, to ensure that any violation of the rights of the leprosy affected is treated as a human rights issue, to set in place mechanisms of redress of grievances and punitive action and above all to demonstrate through successes of those who have struggled against all odds, that change is not only desirable but feasible too.
Pig rearing project to uplift women
This is an all-women’s project involving 15 women beneficiaries and involves raising pigs for meat. In 2011, SILF provided financial support to the women for construction of a shed and purchase of six pigs. Prior to starting this enterprise the women were dependant on begging and casual wage labour for their living.
In this period of two years or so, they been able to rear and sell many batches of piglets. This has enabled them to earn good profits and improve their standard of living. Today they have nine pigs and 18 piglets. Their journey was not of milk and roses. Initially, as they had no prior experience in rearing pigs, they faced many difficulties. Lack of experience and knowledge led to losses and there were times when in the early months they were ready to give up. However, with the help of SILF the mentor and the colony leader they were given assistance in dealing with the challenges of marketing, training on how to raise pigs etc. and persuaded to persist. Today the project has touched good heights and is measured not only in terms of the increase in household income that it has generated but in the broader impact that involvement in this activity has had. The women are more confident and able to deal with outsiders – something they were not able to do at all before they took on this activity. The financial stability provided by the project has improved the stature of the women in their households and in the colonies. They are respected for their hard work and have become a role model for others.
Poultry Farming: An ad-hoc project for financial backing
Eight members from the New Life Welfare Association (colony) applied for and received financial assistance for poultry farming. The project started in March 2012. The activity involves raising chicks for the market. One day old chicks are bought from the market and bred for 21-22 days and resold when they gain weight of approximately 250 grams. The eight members have made a success of this initiative despite initial setbacks. What is even more remarkable is that although most of them are middle aged they have been alive and kicking for the project and have gone heaven and earth for its success. Despite some setbacks such as bird flu they have been able to raise eight batches of 2000 chicks each and generate a profit of Rs. 1, 49,088. Also within a year they have doubled the capacity of their business to 4000 chicks per batch. Apart from the financial success the members have been able to integrate into the society. They share a good rapport with the buyers and sellers and the buyers visit the colony to buy the chicks. This increased social acceptance has raised their self-esteem and self-confidence and is a great source of motivation to ensure the success of the enterprise. With everyone having a say in decision making, there is shared interest among members for collaborative team work.