Lepra Marks International Women’s Day 2019 by Celebrating the Work of Dr Rukmini Rao

This International Women’s Day, global charity Lepra is calling for a more gender-balanced world. Gender equality is something that Lepra is deeply passionate about with evidence suggesting that gender inequality in leprosy endemic countries is one of the main barriers preventing women accessing treatment. To mark the day, Lepra is celebrating the work of its incredible trustee, Dr Rukmini Rao and is raising awareness of women’s right to access healthcare without barriers related to gender, ensuring that women affected by leprosy are supported rather than judged.
One of the women campaigning for change is Dr Rukmini Rao (Trustee of Lepra Society India). Dr Rukmini Rao is a founding-member of the Saheli Resource Centre for Women New Delhi and worked with the organisation from 1981- 1989 when she returned to Hyderabad. As a women’s rights activist, she participated and shaped campaigns to bring in pro-women legislations including increased punishment for rape, prevention of Sati, the PCPNDT Act (The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) and recognition of domestic violence.
From 1990, she worked with the Deccan Development Society to promote rights for female farmers and to prevent child marriages and child labour. She set up the first rural women and children’s shelter in the Medak district.
Since 1993, she has been involved with Gramya Resource Centre for women to prevent trafficking of baby girls and to promote children’s rights and education. She has been working to ensure education for all in Chandampet and Devarkonda mandals of Nalgonda district.
Rukmini works closely with a network of NGOs in India to promote child rights, women’s rights and rights of indigenous communities. She won the “Woman of the Year” award in 2014. Gramya Resource Centre won the best NGO award in the mandal in 2015, and the best NGO award in Telangana state in 2016.
Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive at Lepra, says: “For us, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the amazing achievements of the women who work with Lepra to support thousands of women affected by the disease every year. Without important figures like Dr Rukmini Rao offering their services and support to the women throughout the countries we work in, we would be unable to reach the remote and rural areas, and those living within them.”
Leprosy affects over 7 million of the most vulnerable people in the world, causing life-changing disabilities and attracting terrible prejudice and discrimination, particularly for women. No woman should be abandoned, divorced or have her children taken away from her because she has been affected by leprosy, a curable disease. Women who have been cured of leprosy are just as valuable and important than those who have never been affected and Lepra is on a mission to ensure that this is recognised through its Reaching the Unreached project in Bangladesh.
Lepra is determined to find even more women who are affected by leprosy. In order to do this, the charity requires even more Community Champions. For just £13, Lepra can train a Community Champion to recognise symptoms of leprosy. That skill alone would prevent thousands of people every year from living a lifetime with disability. To help Lepra achieve this, people are being encouraged to host a life-changing tea or donate to https://www.lepra.org.uk/life-changing-tea.