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Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation Begins Operations [2007/10/31]

Headquarters of the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation

The Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation, registered in New Delhi in December 2006 with an endowment of one billion yen, is dedicated both to supporting individuals with leprosy, and to empowering those who have had the disease as they return to school or work. The Foundation is scheduled to launch full-scale aid projects, including scholarships, occupational training, and micro-credit programs that will help colony residents establish new businesses. At the peak of leprosy’s prevalence, India was home to some 70% of those with the disease. However, since the 1980s, when multi-drug therapy (commonly known as MDT) was introduced, more than 11 million people have been cured in India alone.

It is an unacceptable fact, however, that discrimination and stigma continue to impact those affected by leprosy, forcing countless numbers to live in colonies, deprived of educational or occupational opportunities. This is even true for those who have been cured. Many are forced to eke out a living as beggars. Worse, this ostracism extends to family members.

In an effort to bring this state of affairs to the attention of the world, The Nippon Foundation, led by Chairman Sasakawa, brought together eleven world leaders in January 2006 to make a Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy. Cosigners included former US President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama. In January 2007 as well, a second appeal was issued, this time with the participation of sixteen representatives of those affected by leprosy from around the world. (Photo: Mr. Noordeen (left), staff members, and Mr. Sasakawa)

As an outgrowth of its interest in bringing about an end to leprosy-related human rights violations, in December 2006 The Nippon Foundation registered the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (SILF) with Indian authorities, aiming to support those affected by leprosy in their efforts to regain their rights and take back their dignity.

On March 26, at its new office in New Delhi, Dr. S.K. Noordeen (also president of the International Leprosy Association) was elected president of SILF. Ms. Vineeta Sinha, a cultural anthropologist, was appointed secretary general. (Photo: Ms. Vineeta, Secretary General of the Foundation)

To date, research supported by the Nippon Foundation has established that at least 700 colonies exist in 27 of India’s 38 states and union territories. Many other places of refuge, established by state governments, hospitals, and various organizations, also accept those fleeing discrimination.

However, the organizational structure, support activities, and other aspects of such organizations remain undocumented. As a first step for the new foundation, this essential data must be collected from around the country and compiled into a comprehensive database. It will then be possible to determine which colonies require what kind of support.
It will also be crucial to persuade Indian business communities to contribute. The Nippon Foundation has asked Mr. Tarun Das, Chief Mentor and former Secretary General of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), for assistance with the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation. Mr. Das has cordially accepted the offer and will serve on the board. With his aid, SILF aims to draw on India’s growing sense of corporate social responsibility, collecting enough donations to match The Nippon Foundation’s endowment.
Posted by TNF at 09:49 | Leprosy | URL
Japan Quiz Bowl Held in China’s Jilin Province [2007/10/24]

The Changchun Teachers College students who won the tournament in Jilin Province

“Which of Minamoto no Yoritomo’s brothers became legendary for achievements such as breaking up the Heike clan?” So read one question from the Sasakawa Cup quiz bowl on Japanese history and culture, held for university students from three Chinese regions, from September 6 - 12. While the answer -- Minamoto no Yoshitsune -- is common knowledge among Japanese students, one would expect Chinese students to have more difficulty with it. But participants jumped at the buttons in front of them and recited the correct answers -- all in Japanese. The range of Japanese knowledge was startling. (Photo: Beijing Olympic mascots making an appearance)

The quiz bowl is an extension of a project supported by the Japan Science Society since 1999, through which educational books are donated to Chinese universities. The tournament is intended to motivate students in China with access to these books to learn about Japan. In this, its fourth year, the tournament was held in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, and in the Eastern China region, with teams from eight universities participating in the Heilongjiang and Jilin tournaments and twelve universities taking part in the East China tournament. Each university was represented by three students, and the winning teams from each region will be invited to Japan next year to experience Japanese culture firsthand. (Photo: The tournament in Heilongjiang Provinces)

This year, Jilin Province held its first tournament, sponsored by the Changchun Teachers College. The tournament featured a number of questions that were even difficult when presented to Japanese university students in multiple-choice format. The college personnel in charge of the tournament are said to have held 14 rehearsals before the actual tournament, motivating the contestants with the idea that contestants need not win, but should not fail. The resulting tournament was a success, with Changchun Teachers College coming from behind to win on the final question. “My grandfather was in the Japanese military,” said Jin Meihua (aged 23), from the winning team, “but he doesn’t talk much about those days. I think Japan is a developed nation with a culture similar to Korea’s. I’m delighted to have a chance to visit.” (Photo: Jin Meihua expressing her happiness on winning)

Between questions, Jiamusi University’s Music College provided performances such as horns, and a trio of male pop vocalists. In the East China region, in an effort to increase the number of participants, quizzes were conducted in Chinese. Ten Japanese firms active in the region provided employment information, while the Japanese consulate in Shanghai provided information on opportunities to study in Japan. (Photo: A horn performance by Jiamusi University students)
Posted by TNF at 11:25 | Human Resources Development | URL
30,000 artificial legs donated to Vietnam [2007/10/17]

Chairman Sasakawa examines an artificial leg at the ceremony

Since 1999, the Nippon Foundation has continued to donate artificial legs to citizens of Vietnam who lost legs in the Vietnam War or in incidents afterwards involving landmines or other causes. This year, the cumulative total number of donated artificial legs reached 30,000. On September 18, a ceremony was held in the Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi to commemorate this milestone, with various participants, including users of the donated artificial limbs, calling for the program to continue.

The Nippon Foundation’s distribution of artificial legs has focused on agricultural villages in central Vietnam, where most of the damage from the war and landmines has concentrated. Since 2005, the program has also aided landmine victims from ethnic minorities living in the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam. The need for artificial legs is said to be pressing in this region, where aid from the Vietnamese government is available only to retired military personnel, not to the general public. (Photo: A farming village in Vietnam)

At the ceremony held inside the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, promised that the artificial limbs program would continue. “The success of Vietnam’s efforts to modernize and improve its people’s standard of living is commendable. But one area remains in the shadows. This area is encouraging society’s weaker members, including those with disabilities, and activities that will help them return to active roles in society. People with disabilities have both the motivation and the energy to work. The Nippon Foundation wants to work in Vietnam on behalf of those disadvantaged in this way.” (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa greets the ceremony)

Also in attendance at the ceremony were those who had lost legs in war or in traffic accidents. Dong Thi Dung (age: 44), who lost his right leg in a traffic accident in January 2002, was a farmer before the accident but now earns a living as a tailor. His energy has returned since receiving an artificial leg in December 2006. “I’m not the only one,” he noted. “There are many others who need artificial legs, and I hope this program will reach them.”

“I’m very grateful to be able to receive this artificial leg just three months after my accident,” said Nguyen Ti Hang (age: 29), whose left leg was seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in January of this year. (Photo: Nguyen Ti Hang and Dong Thi Dung [from left], who both have received artificial legs)

Ca Van Tran of Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH), which provides local support for this project, described the continuing high demand for provision of artificial legs. “We publicize this program via television and radio, but many people in mountainous regions still haven’t heard of it.”

The Nippon Foundation is focusing on training prosthetists and orthotists who can build artificial arms and legs for people in Asia’s developing nations. The Foundation has supported the development of the P/O school network (SAPOS: Strategic Alliance of Prosthetic Orthotic Schools) in the Asia region since 2005. The first regional meeting was held in September 2005, and it was met with a good reaction by the Asian P/O society due to its emphasis upon the support of information sharing and the transfer of technology. The program of providing free artificial legs in Vietnam is part of the Foundation’s project to assist those with disabilities in Asia.
Posted by TNF at 15:33 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Conference Commemorates Establishment of Basic Ocean Law [2007/10/10]

Conference Commemorates Establishment of Basic Ocean Law

On a rainy October 1 in Tokyo, Japan’s new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda opened the new session of the Diet. On the same day at noon, a conference was held commemorating the establishment of the Basic Ocean Law. The conference was held by the Basic Ocean Law Research Committee, a body within the Ocean Policy Research Foundation (ORPF).

400 people, including many active in maritime affairs, took part in the conference, at which an address was read on behalf of Prime Minister Fukuda, (who also heads the national committee on general maritime policies.) In the speech, the prime minister said, “This year, with the establishment of the Basic Ocean Law and structures to promote integrated maritime policies, is the year in which Japan sets sail on its voyage to truly become a nation of the sea … I intend to devote every effort to promoting well-considered maritime policies, so that we might pass on a peaceful, beautiful sea to the next generation.” He also discussed his policy of consolidating jurisdiction over maritime affairs under the Basic Ocean Law, a responsibility that is currently divided across eight different government ministries and agencies.

Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba, who serves on the Basic Ocean Law Research Committee, greeted the assembly in his capacity as member of the government’s committee on general maritime policies. “Japan must transform itself from an insular nation to a nation of the sea,” he said. “As the law states, Japan needs to take an international lead in creating order on the seas… We must evolve from a nation protected by the sea into one that protects the sea.”(Photo: Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba)

The Basic Ocean Law was drafted by members of the Diet and became a law in April 2007. In preparation for the bill, the secretariat for the Basic Ocean Law Research Committee was established within the ORPF. This Committee, composed of Diet members, academics, and leaders of relevant government bodies, met ten times to consider a wide range of issues.

The law is a very rare example of legislation arising from private-sector research, and created through consensus among a nonpartisan coalition of Diet members. This effort has been described as a likely model for future bills. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation (which originally established the ORPF in 1975), in order to establish the law, took an active part in forging ties between Diet members from different parties and factions, and at the conference praised the landmark event. “The groundwork has been laid,” he said. “From here, everything will depend on the quality of the structure we build on these foundations.” (Photo: Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation)

The Japanese government plans to prepare the first draft of its maritime plan by late October, announcing the final draft in January 2008, after obtaining opinions from a panel of experts, public comment, and a final decision by the Cabinet.
Posted by TNF at 18:14 | Sea & Ship | URL
Chairman Sasakawa addresses UN Human Rights Council Members [2007/10/03]

A Parallel Meeting on Leprosy and Human Rights

On September 25 in Geneva, during the 6th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Nippon Foundation sponsored a parallel meeting on leprosy and human rights. Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa noted that though multidrug therapy (MDT) has made leprosy treatable, both those who have had leprosy and their families continue to suffer severe discrimination. He called for the Human Rights Council to address the issue as one of “discrimination and human rights” rather than “disease and human rights.”

The purpose of the parallel meeting was to appeal to Human Rights Council member nations regarding the continuing discrimination suffered by people affected by leprosy. Addressing national representatives at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Mr. Sasakawa explained that, although 15 million people have been cured over the past 30 years, and although the control of the disease is eminent, more than 100 million people, including families of leprosy victims, continue to suffer severe discrimination. He then called for a Human Rights Council resolution demanding the elimination of such discrimination.

Panelist P.K. Gopal, president of IDEA, an organization for people affected by leprosy, introduced examples of actual discrimination, such as the fact that leprosy victims cannot stay at hotels in his country. He called for the Human Rights Council to create guidelines. Dr. Arturo Cunanan, who works with leprosy on Culion Island in the Philippines, said, “People who have recovered from leprosy are not seeking any special rights, but just the ordinary rights enjoyed by other people.”

After the seminar, the representative of the Japanese government sponsored a reception at his official residence. Nearly 140 people were in attendance, representing both national governments and NGOs. In his speech, Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki announced that the Minister of Foreign Affairs had earlier named Mr. Sasakawa “Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy.”

Mr. Sasakawa’s appointment is a formal expression of the Japanese government’s approach to issues of leprosy and human rights as part of its international policies on human rights. Mr. Sasakawa will continue activities both under his new title and as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, a post in which he has served since 2001.
Posted by TNF at 14:09 | Leprosy | URL