Indian Prize Recognizes Sasakawa Yōhei’s Support for Hansen’s Disease Sufferers


On February 26 the award ceremony for the Indian government’s International Gandhi Peace Prize took place at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential residence in New Delhi. Sasakawa Yōhei, chairman of the Nippon Foundation and winner of the 2018 prize, received his plaque and citation from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. 

The award recognized Sasakawa’s work to combat Hansen’s disease (leprosy) in India and elsewhere around the globe. He has been involved with efforts to fight the disease and the stigma associated with it, as well as to support its sufferers and those who have recovered from it, for more than four decades. At the ceremony, President Kovind stated that he represented India in thanking Sasakawa and the Nippon Foundation for these contributions to the cause.

“I view this award as one I receive on behalf of the many people who have worked with me to battle Hansen’s disease,” said Sasakawa. “I feel as though Mahatma Gandhi is cheering us on.” He also called for others to join in to support the work that continues: “The dream is not out of reach of a world where Hansen’s disease, and the stigma and discrimination that come with it, are no more.”

Sasakawa is the first Japanese citizen to win the prize, established in 1995. This year’s ceremony was the first held in four years, and recognized winners for the years from 2015 onward. The International Gandhi Peace Prize is accompanied by a 10 million rupee (around ¥15 million) cash award; the Nippon Foundation chairman has said he will donate it to support further Hansen’s disease efforts.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Sasakawa Yōhei, at left, receives the International Gandhi Peace Prize from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at a New Delhi ceremony. At center is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Courtesy the Nippon Foundation.)

Nippon Foundation India Sasakawa Hansen's disease