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Women in Bangladesh

Breaking barriers and opening doors – The Leprosy Mission engages with British parliamentarians at the House of Commons in a bid to transform millions of lives overseas

As a member of the BOND Disability and Development Group, The Leprosy Mission is hosting a reception at the House of Commons on Tuesday 3 December to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Speakers at the special event include Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Chairman of the International Development Committee, and Paralympian and TV presenter Ade Adepitan MBE.

The message of the influential gathering is ‘breaking barriers, opening doors’ and will celebrate the recent strides the Government has made in addressing inclusion for people with disability.  The Leprosy Mission welcomed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Lynne Featherstone’s recent announcement in New York that the Department for International Development will ensure that construction of new schools will be accessible for children with disabilities.

There is a long way to go, however, and the event will also set out the group’s desire to see people with disabilities included in the Post-2015 Development Goals and for the Department for International Development to champion disability inclusion on the global stage.

Far from restricted to being a ‘single issue health charity’, The Leprosy Mission is advocating for people with disabilities across the globe to have the opportunities their able-bodied counterparts can access.

For example, The Leprosy Mission has headed up the disability side of the European Commission-funded Food Security for Ultra Poor Women’s project which has helped a total of 40,000 women-headed households with livelihood activities in Bangladesh.

As a result of The Leprosy Mission’s involvement, 20 per cent of the beneficiaries are people with disabilities including 900 leprosy-affected households.  These are people who previously struggled to get work and therefore were left at the fringes of society due to obstacles surrounding disability and stigma.  Now they are productive and respected members of their community, contributing to economic growth.

The Leprosy Mission’s advocacy efforts have resulted in the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) initiative in Tamil Nadu state ensuring that job opportunities are given to people with disabilities.  In fact, the initiative has recently announced that all supervisors on the scheme should have a disability.  This in itself equates to employment for 50,000 people with disabilities and will further aid the recruitment of others with a disability.

Sian Arulanantham, Head of Programmes Coordination at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and a member of the steering committee of the Bond Disability and Development group said:  “There is so much more that the Department for International Development can do to ensure that people with disabilities are included in the projects it funds.

“We are also lobbying MPs to campaign for the inclusion of people with disability within the Post-2015 Development Goals. 

“The lack of inclusion of people with disability in the Millennium Development Goals is likely to be a key factor in them not being achieved.  There are around a billion people with disabilities globally and it is widely known that disability is closely linked with poverty. 

“It is, therefore, imperative that the Post-2015 Development Goals include measures to ensure we are reaching people with disabilities.”

Photo: Tom Bradley