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Project information

Women = Change: Empowering women to beat leprosy

Over 3 million people are living with leprosy, unable to access the cure due to fear or lack of knowledge. Untreated, leprosy causes terrible disabilities, destroying lives, and women are affected the most. Female health champions can remove gender barriers and ensure women receive treatment.

April 2016 - March 2019

Charity information: Lepra

Lepra logo
  • Need


    The stigma surrounding leprosy means those affected face horrific discrimination. This burden is particularly felt by women, exacerbating existing gender inequality. They are left vulnerable to abandonment, abuse and separation from their children. Cultural barriers in Bangladesh prevent women seeing a male doctor alone; fearing the consequences of a relative discovering their condition, they hide their symptoms. This leaves women at increased risk of life-changing disabilities and prejudice.


    To break down these cultural barriers, we train female community champions to recognise early signs of leprosy, and other diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, in women in their community. They refer women for diagnosis and treatment as well as follow up with home visits to offer support with self-care techniques that help reduce disabilities. Our community champions have often been affected by leprosy and so can reduce the stigma surrounding the disease through awareness raising campaigns.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To detect leprosy cases in the early stages, reducing and preventing disability and complications.


    » Screen contacts of people affected by leprosy to identify potential cases for treatment.
    » Deliver home based care to people with complications.

    What success will look like

    Our community champions will examine 1,200 women and 800 men for leprosy in their communities. We expect to find 90 new cases, 94% of which will have little or no disability.

    Aim 2

    Increase knowledge of local health providers to provide quality leprosy services.


    » Train government and non-government health workers and practitioners to recognise the symptoms of leprosy.
    » Train community champions in detection, advocacy and awareness raising.
    » Provide ulcer care services.

    What success will look like

    We will train 1575 government health staff to recognise symptoms and provide correct treatment. We will train a further 100 community champions to go out into their communities.

    Aim 3

    Empower people affected by leprosy, especially those with disabilities, to care for themselves.


    » Conduct self-care training.
    » Provide protective shoes to people with leprosy-related disabilities.
    » Set up self-care groups.

    What success will look like

    2,300 people will be taught disability self-care at one of our camps. We will distribute protective footwear to 240 women and 560 men, which will help overcome mobility issues.

    Aim 4

    Improve community members’ knowledge of leprosy and their rights to health and welfare services.


    » Hold focus groups.
    » Hold meetings between affected and non-affected people.
    » Conduct surveys to measure attitudes.
    » Observe World Leprosy Day.

    What success will look like

    50% of people affected by leprosy will be aware of their rights to basic health and welfare services and 30% of the wider community will have some knowledge of leprosy.

  • Impact


    The combination of case detection, disability care and awareness raising will reduce the prevalence of and stigma surrounding leprosy. By working with government health workers, we will strengthen existing systems to ensure the project is sustainable. Our focus on women will break down existing cultural barriers to ensure equal access of medical provision and our emphasis on education will counter the stigma associated with the disease.


    Political instability and natural disasters:
    Community champions are not government staff, and work during strikes. Decentralised approach means natural disasters unlikely to affect all areas.

    Community may not cooperate:
    Our community engagement approach is sensitive to concerns of community.

    Community champions not motivated:
    Many community champions are motivated former patients. They receive compensation, to allow them to commit.


    We will ensure donors are informed about progress in the ways they would like, whether via our website, social media, e-news or direct mail. We also write an annual report that is shared with donors. This includes data on activities implemented that year, and looks at progress towards aims.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £40,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £26,800 Project Activities The activites detailed to find, diagnose and treat those affected by leprosy.
      £8,400 Project Implementation Cost of staff to run the project.
      £1,600 Administration General day to day costs.
      £3,200 Monitoring and Evaluation Collecting data for reporting and monitoring purposes.

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    DFID £184,819 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world. One in three people live on less than $1.25 a day. We work in the poorest districts in the rural north west of the country where a lack of essential health services results in just 3 doctors and nurses per 10,000 of the population. Lack of health infrastructure combined with high population density provides a perfect environment for leprosy and other neglected diseases.


    This project will help people affected by leprosy in rural communities where access to healthcare is very difficult. We will focus particularly on women who cannot access care due to cultural barriers which confine them to the home, or prevent them for seeking treatment from male health workers. By training female community champions, we can break through these barriers and reach these hidden women, providing them with the treatment and care they need to overcome leprosy.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Since our inception in 1924, we have been at the forefront of progress in leprosy, contributing to the development of effective treatment and pioneering ground-breaking techniques to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate people. We have been working in Bangladesh since 2000, implementing life-changing projects to beat leprosy: by involving women in healthcare through our community champion projects we deliver real change, allowing communities to take ownership for their health and begin to thrive.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Maartje Pronk

    Maartje is the Programme Officer for Bangladesh and is responsible for overseeing the project and ensuring that it delivers its goals.

    Anwar Hossain

    Anwar is the in-country Project Manager and is responsible for the day to day running and implementation of the project.


will train one female community champion to find people living with leprosy in their community.

When I was diagnosed with leprosy my husband sent my son away from home to make sure he didn’t get the disease. I couldn’t even touch my own son. I am very grateful to Lepra for their support.

Fatema – a Lepra Community champion