Gulabsha is 13 years old. She has six brothers and sisters. Her father works at a tobacco factory and earns 150 to 200 rupees a day (£1.50 to £2) to support the whole family of nine people.
Our health education van and staff visited her village and she heard about the first signs of leprosy. She had already noticed a raised patch of skin on her left forearm which was also numb.
Sensory testing confirmed that she had leprosy; she started on a six-month course of multi-drug treatment immediately.
The numbness wasn’t the only problem though. She couldn’t even hold a pencil and she dropped out of school, staying away for almost one year.
She didn’t leave the house and was very worried about whether she might ever be able to continue her studies.
Gulabsha is afraid of the prejudice she may experience from the people in her community.
Outside her family, she has not told anyone about the disease. Her parents have also kept the diagnosis a secret because they do not want to ruin the marriage prospects for their daughter.
Gulabsha has returned to school but is one year behind in her studies. Her favourite subject is Hindi and she loves reading. She plans to be an engineer but for the moment is happy to be well again.
Whilst both men and women are negatively affected by leprosy in terms of their family and marital lives, women and girls suffer more isolation and rejection.
Gulabsha was lucky because she had support from her parents, but this is not always the case. Some parents keep their daughters who are affected by leprosy hidden because of the prejudice which could deter offers of marriage.
We recently visited Gulabsha to see how she was getting on since we last saw her. She says:
Now I am able to write, my life has changed completely.
She plans to study for a degree in Engineering.
Gulabsha says thank you