Carina Tyrrell, fomer Miss UK/England and student doctor at the University of Cambridge, guest blogs for Lepra on International Women's Day:

As a young woman living in the UK, I see gender inequality around me, whether it is in day-to-day conversations, the work place or the media. Particularly damaging are the stereotypes and labels placed on individuals. As a scientist, a feminist, and Miss England/UK – I have tried to break some of these stereotypes. But these issues experienced in the UK are nothing compared to other parts of the world.

I remember visiting a leprosy clinic in Brazil during my medical training. I was shocked to see the impact that the label “leprosy” had on individuals. The impact was so devastating that leprosy was referred to by another name – Hansen’s disease. I heard first account stories of families torn apart because those affected had been shunned from society. When you are ill, there is nothing harder than being away from those you love.

Women are particularly at risk if they have leprosy as often they are unable to marry, can’t find work, and can face divorce from their husbands in certain countries.

There is a need to support these vulnerable groups, both women and men affected by diseases such as leprosy and others.

On International Women’s Day, I think back to the women I have met - those who have experienced disease in different parts of the world who also face inequality, from a woman beaten by her husband because she contracted leprosy, to a woman cast onto the streets with a newborn and HIV acquired from her husband who denied having the disease. It needs to stop.

Gender inequality is a woman’s issue, a man’s issue, a global issue. We can all play a part in overcoming inequality, even locally through highlighting issues and challenging stereotypes and labels.