The Chittagong People-led Development Project aims to improve the quality of the life of people affected by leprosy, through social and economic development facilitated through self-help groups.
The project is progressing effectively and is moving toward sustainability.
Self-help groups have been the key to the project's success, providing support and skills training to more than 2,800 people living with leprosy and disability. By 2015, self-help group numbers have grew to 225, with the average group size increased to 15. Females now constitute 78% of total group membership of 2,859.
The project provides leprosy-affected individuals and their families with income-generating activities in useable and employable skills, such as sewing, mechanics, animals rearing, business development, business counselling and vocational training. The project also promotes loan and micro-credit schemes, and imparts knowledge of savings management. There has been an increase in savings levels of individual members, and the plans for these saving are incredibly aspirational.
‘Before receiving the loan I had nothing in my hands (no source of income). But with that loan I am happy -- at least I am getting to do trading now and I have made some profit, thank God,’ says Aidel, a self-help group member.
These federations of self-help groups were also set up to give leprosy-affected people a powerful collective voice. Leaders are being trained to advocate on behalf of federation members.
Training provided through project activities has meant that many members have a sense of belonging and are able to acquire knowledge and skills, and to share those with other members.
There is a deep sense of confidence and general awareness of community opportunities amongst group members, also a growing sense of dignity and self-worth amongst members as they receive wider acceptance in the community. Their confidence has helped them confront, and overcome, previous levels of stigma existing in the wider community.
‘We have a unity and a togetherness that we greatly value,’ a self-help group member says confidently.
Members are now more actively participating in a range of benchmark social and community customary events, and family decision-making processes. 100% of leprosy-affected people are now participating in weddings!
Furthermore, addressing gender equality and human rights issues continue to be a core feature of all Chittagong People-led Development Project activities. By the end of 2015, females constituted nearly 78% of membership and were fully involved in savings and in the implementation of small-scale income-generating activities.
'We are united -- and we are strong when we are working together. We can help each other during difficult times. We can plan our future together,’ says a field officer.