Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) today organized ‘Youth Against Leprosy’, a National Youth Festivalto raise awareness about leprosy amongst the younger generation. The Youth Festival was organized at the India Islamic CulturalCentre in New Delhi. It was graced by Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, DG, CII, who was the Chief Guest at the event. The 9th Youth against Leprosy (YAL) Event function was a finale of National Youth Festival, 2023 which saw the participation of colleges from all over the 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 background. 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. It engages the college youth that have been involved through its various programs, through an event focused on mobilizing and driving awareness amongst the young citizens. It is aimed at eradicating the stigma against leprosy through collaborating with different colleges/ educational organisations.
CII aims to see persons from Leprosy colonies to take up startups with support from CII. S-ILF has had a strong connection with CII which has been made stronger with the MoU. The participating youth have been enrolled and trained by S-ILF under its Education, Advocacy and Awareness programs.Youth are the forerunners of change and the encouraging number of participants today at the festival gives hope that as a country we are united and take the onus of fighting against the stigma associated with Leprosy.
On the occasion, Mr. Sayed Imam,Member, Board of Trustee , Sasakawa- India leprosy Foundation said, “It is very unfortunate that the youth of India have little or no knowledge around the myths associated with leprosy which results in stigma and discrimination against those affected by leprosy & their families. The very little knowledge that they gain is often vague and endorses 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. We hope to reach out maximum number of Youth every year through Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation’s new initiative The Youth Festival at both regional and national level.” As of now we at S-ILF have sensitized 12000 plus students from colleges & schools & reached out to more than 17 lakh youth through our Awareness Sessions & Youth Festivals.”
Addressing the event Mr. Gaurab Sen, Chief Executive Officer Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation said, “Usually the younger generation has very little or no understanding of leprosy as a disease. Whatever little they may know comes from family and friends and is often vague and reaffirms the stigma against the disease. If the youth get sensitized at a young age, they can significantly contribute towards elimination which is the final goal. With this thought and vision, S-ILF engages youth through its various programs, and mobilizes them to join the fight against leprosy. Also, to motivate the younger generation with Leprosy background, we give them training under our education programme and I am delighted to share with you that the youth is doing very well for themselves.”
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 initiative 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.