TOKYO, November 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A recent symposium in Morocco on leprosy and human rights was an opportunity for Naima Azzouzi to speak publicly for the first time about the disease she was diagnosed with at the age of 9. Azzouzi is the president of an association of people affected by leprosy in Morocco formed earlier this year to fight the stigma and discrimination that she and others like her face.
“I want to thank the organizers for hosting this event. It is the first time we have been able to convey our feelings,” she told an audience of government officials, human rights experts, NGOs, and people affected by leprosy in Rabat on October 28. “We want people to know we have fundamental human rights.”
Sponsored by the Nippon Foundation, the symposium was the fourth in a series taking place in different regions of the world to disseminate Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and Their Family Members endorsed by a UN General Assembly resolution in 2010.
Although leprosy is completely curable, deep-rooted stigma and discrimination associated with the disease remain widespread. For those affected, this can mean living on the margins of society, where opportunities for education, employment and access to public services are severely curtailed.
“Even though you may be medically cured, you still have the disease as long as there is stigma and discrimination,” Alem Galeta, a board member of the Ethiopian National Association of People Affected by Leprosy, told the gathering.
Previous symposia have been held in Brazil, India and Ethiopia. At the first symposium in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, an International Working Group was established to develop a plan to ensure that governments put the Principles and Guidelines into effect.
Barbara Frey, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Human Rights and a member of the working group, noted that the Principles and Guidelines are rooted in the UN Charter. “This global commitment to human rights cannot be achieved if the rights of any particular group of people are not fully respected and protected.”
The International Working Group will issue its recommendations at the fifth and final symposium to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2015.
The Nippon Foundation