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Real life stories

Bilkis Begum's story


Bilkis Begum

Bilkis Begum is 60 years old and lives in the Bogura district of Bangladesh.

She has three daughters and a son, but sadly her husband passed away shortly after the birth of her youngest daughter.  

During a routine checkup when her daughter was one year old, her doctor noticed that she had patches of white skin which had very little sensation. She soon received a diagnosis of leprosy and was sent for multidrug therapy (MDT) treatment at the regional clinic.  

With no husband, no support from her wider family or community, and trying to feed four young children, Bilkis had no choice but to beg for food and money, forcing her to delay her treatment until her children were older. 

The delay in treatment, meant Bilkis’ condition seriously deteriorated. Her legs had become weak, and she had lost significant sensation in both legs and a hand. Unable to walk or maintain employment, she used a wheelchair to beg, which took a significant toll on her emotional wellbeing. Her children were taken into an orphanage, and she was isolated in her community. 

Bilkis was identified by the ‘Bogura Federation of People Affected’ as someone with significant vulnerabilities, and arranged for her to join Lepra’s Mind to Heart project. The Federation is a grassroots organisation supported by Lepra, who provide a sense of community, social and economic support for people affected by leprosy and LF. Mind to Heart supports people with a range of emotional health needs. 

Supported by a ‘Mental Motivator’, Bilkis accessed structured counselling sessions, to help her rebuild her confidence and sense of dignity. Lepra’s community health workers and leaders of the Bogura Federation attended advocacy meetings with government health and social welfare officials, helping her to receive vital economic support, and suitable housing.  

Bilkis now has the ongoing support she needs to thrive and maintain her emotional health. Her outlook on life has completely changed, she feels empowered and no longer bound by prejudice and discrimination. She has become a champion in her community, a symbol of resilience, strength, and emotional recovery. Bilkis now plans, with the help of the Federation, to open her own small shop, selling groceries to provide a sustainable income for the future. 

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