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Chittagong Sustainable Development Project

A self-help group meeting in ChittagongThe Chittagong Sustainable Development Project is providing leprosy-affected people with the skills and knowledge they need to take control of their own lives.

  • Self-help groups have been the key to the project's success, providing support and skills training to more than 800 people living with leprosy and disability.
  • Federations of self-help groups have been set up to give leprosy-affected people a powerful collective voice. Leaders have been identified and trained to advocate on behalf of Federation members.
  • The project provides leprosy-affected individuals and their families with vocational training in useable and employable skills such as sewing and mechanics.

The Power of Self-Help Groups: Pratima's Story

Pratima Rani Das has been cured of leprosy, but the disease has left her with permanent disabilities.

A few months ago she heard about the difference self-help groups were making in the lives of people affected by leprosy and disability, and decided to form a group in her own community. She found another five people who were interested, and together they approached the Chittagong Sustainable Development Project staff to ask for support and training. The project staff were only too happy to help.

Once the group was established they had to elect a chairperson, but this proved to be very difficult as no one wanted to take on the role. Eventually the other members persuaded Pratima to become their leader, even though she could not read or write.  This proved to be a bigger challenge than they expected, as she could not even set up a bank account. The project staff noticed that the group was having difficulty and encouraged Pratima to learn how to read and write.

Now, thanks to the support of project staff, her family and the other group members, Pratima can read and write and the group is planning to go to the bank and open an account. This will allow them to save money every month so that eventually they can set up income generating activities, like fish farming or vegetable growing/selling, in their community.