Ganesh Muthusamy – an empowered, passionate ‘leprosy champion’ who is leading the fight against leprosy

CHENNAI (TAMIL NADU): Recently, in the State-level Leprosy Coordination Committee meeting in Tamil Nadu, chaired by Dr Ashraf Ali, Additional Director (Leprosy), Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Tamil Nadu, Mr Ganesh Muthusamy, a leprosy champion developed by The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) gave the first-person experience of disabilities in leprosy and how leprosy stigma, disability and discrimination affects even educated persons affected by the disease. He spoke about the need for timely diagnosis and treatment of cases before nerve damage sets in to prevent disability, as leprosy is a leading cause of permanent physical disabilities among communicable diseases.

About his experience as a person affected by leprosy, Ganesh says, “I am from Villupuram, in Tamil Nadu. Leprosy and disability together affected my life when I was young. I continued my schooling during the period of my treatment. I was discriminated against by my classmates and villagers. I was treated with multi-drug therapy (MDT) and was completely cured. Despite all the difficulties, I completed my MBA. But I couldn’t get a job as I was affected by leprosy! But I was determined to fight it out and joined a disability rights organisation. We, a group of persons with disabilities, continue to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, with the government.”

Developing Champions is an integral part of TLMTI’s community empowerment projects. Projects identify persons affected by leprosy who have overcome their struggles and have the potential to become leaders who can empower others in their communities who are affected by leprosy to address stigma and discrimination. Further, the projects build on their skills and knowledge through a series of capacity-building programmes in topics, such as community mobilisation, communication, advocacy, human rights, and public speaking, to make Champions out of them – empowered, passionate individuals who would take the lead in the fight against leprosy!

Champions are our hope for the future. And TLMTI has developed 485 Champions – and proudly, Ganesh Muthusamy is one among them!