Challenging societal barriers: The power of metaphors and analogies in addressing stigma

By Alemu Tesfaye

Alemu Tesfaye (biography)

How can we overcome stigma, regardless of whether it’s associated with health conditions, socio-economic status, or individual identities? How can we use metaphors and analogies to convey how stigma hinders effective dialogue, intervention, and inclusion, contributing to a cycle of fear and misunderstanding, and discouraging affected individuals from seeking help or intervention due to fear of judgment, discrimination, or isolation?

Metaphors and analogies are powerful cognitive tools that shape our understanding and perception of the world around us. We employ both in our everyday language and thought processes, often without realizing it, and they heavily influence how we interpret new experiences and information. They allow us to create meaning, understand complex concepts, and connect with others in more profound ways.

In my work, I have developed the following metaphors and analogies for grasping the silent battles of individuals with two neglected tropical diseases – podoconiosis and scabies – as a vital first stride towards tearing down the wall of stigma, neglect, and discrimination that surrounds these conditions.

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