Rasheda lives in a small village set amidst the rice paddies and mustard fields of rural Bangladesh. She is a mother and a wife and she was diagnosed with leprosy. Fortunately Rasheda was able to join one of Lepra’s local self-help groups for support.
In these groups individuals affected by leprosy and LF are able to come together to support each other. They tell their stories, share experiences and learn new skills to help them regain independence. Whether it be goat-rearing, tailoring or caring for chickens, individuals are able to gain valuable skills that will enable them to earn a substantial living way past the point of recovery.
Once equipped with a set of skills people like Rasheda can go on to start their own business and earn money. To get their venture off the ground each self-help group has a fund hey have collated with the help of Lepra. This means that when the time is right someone like Rasheda can take a loan to get started.
Having made a full recovery, Rasheda did just that. She borrowed a loan from the Lepra self-help group fund to buy a goat. She was able to rear the goat and ten months later sell it for four times the amount.
After paying back her loan she was then able to buy more goats with the profits eventually taking ownership of an entire flock. She’s now able to provide for her family, something she’s extremely proud of.
““I’m no longer a leprosy sufferer to be pitied, but a woman who is living her life with jobs to do.””
Over the last two years we have helped form 80 self-help groups with 525 members like Rasheda. By coming together the groups have been able to lobby for change and advocate for their rights. As a result of this groups are now able to open bank accounts which is extremely significant given that only 20% of people in Bangladesh have access to banking facilities.
Using a bank account means the groups can save money collectively and keep it safely and securely for the future. These savings provide a substantial resource for communities where most live on well below £1 per day.
The various self-help groups from across the districts have now formed a district federation of people affected by leprosy and disability. We’re planning on helping to get the federation officially registered as a community-based organisation so that way, they become a legal entity on their own. This will mean they are able to engage with the government to represent self-help group members and advocate for their rights.