This profile was prepared when Innocent Uworibhor was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
People with leprosy face severe stigmatization in Nigerian society. Even cured lepers typically remain in leper colonies because they are not accepted anywhere else. Innocent is preparing former lepers to re-enter society and preparing society to accept them. He empowers these former outcasts to achieve economic independence by giving them the means to provide for themselves the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. He simultaneously lobbies the government to channel resources to the leper colonies and conducts public enlightenment campaigns to dispel myths and stereotypes about the disease. Innocent's initiative, the first indigenous effort to deal with leprosy issues in Nigeria, emphasizes the involvement of former lepers in program design and operation. With his wealth of experience in fighting the marginalization of lepers, Innocent is increasingly called upon to support organizations battling other kinds of social stigmatization. Such organizations include those tackling the issues of HIV/AIDS and the rigid caste system in eastern Nigeria.