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Standing on her own feet – Radha’s Story

Imagine your friends shunning you, your family working you to the bone, your own mother saying it would be good if you died – all because of a disease you were cured of years ago.

But before judging Radha’s* family too harshly, it’s important to understand the context and fear around leprosy in rural Nepal. Widely regarded as a curse from the gods, the disease often stigmatises not just those who contract it but their relatives too.

Adding injury to insult, Radha lost the top of a finger during her treatment for leprosy at the age of 8.

Radha, now 18 years of age.
Radha, now 18 years of age.

Now 18, she’s missed years of schooling in order to work for her family. Rising early, she cooks and cleans before collecting firewood, tending the cattle and fetching water. She sleeps on straw on the floor of the small hut she shares with her parents, 3 siblings and a brother-in-law. With her father’s job in an ironmonger’s shop failing to make ends meet, Radha dreams of an education that could transform her and her family’s lives.

NLT staff counseling Radha's family and community.
NLT staff counseling Radha’s family and community.
Radha learns safe cooking as she has no feeling in her hands.
Radha learns safe cooking as she has no feeling in her hands.

To that end, staff at LLSC (NLT’s leprosy centre in south-eastern Nepal) have worked closely with Radha, teaching her how to look after her hand, left numb by leprosy and therefore at risk of further damage during her daily chores of cooking, cleaning and cutting grass. With the help of NLT counsellors, Radha’s despair has turned to hope. She’s joined a self help group in her village where others who’ve faced discrimination offer support and encouragement. NLT staff have visited her family to explain that leprosy is no curse but a curable disease, and to open their eyes to the value of Radha’s education.

With NLT support and funding, this sensitive, ambitious young woman hopes to go back to school where she can live her dream to gain education and employment and stand tall in her community.

*Name changed