I am 32 years old, studying for a Masters Degree in Sociology. I was diagnosed with leprosy at the age of nine . . . . none of my friends touched me or treated me properly. I was segregated from the social circle. I was alone in my school. My mother was the only person who cared for me. She also had leprosy and was neglected by her husband and the village people. My father married another woman and went away. Life became even worse when my mother left home in search of him. There was no one to take care of me. I was given the responsibility to look after the cattle, collect firewood and fetch water. I had to stay in the referral center for a long time, missing school.
Even in those hard days, I did not lose courage and interest to continue my studies. I could complete my schooling with some support from my elder sister . . . . After 18 months of volunteer service, I was offered a nursing job at Green Pastures Hospital. I took in one girl who is affected by leprosy from Green Pastures Hospital. She wanted to study so I admitted her in class 7. She has been living with me for four years. Now she studies in class 9. IDEA Japan members have given her a scholarship.
I am happy that I am now leading an independent life. I support myself, although life is hard in our community for a person who has had leprosy. It is even more difficult for a woman in Nepal, as they have very little rights to make any kind of decision for themselves. Women are not as advanced because they are deprived an education, so my desire is to start a school for women.
-- Parwati Oli, participant in IDEA Nepal's First Women's Empowerment Workshop, which was videotaped for the Oral History Project.