Defending the Human Rights of People with Albinism


There’s this belief that the body parts of people with albinism have some kind of efficacy when used in witchcraft potions. There’s over 600 attacks that have been recorded. Since 2007, actually. Killing, mutilation, kidnapping. There needs to be some high-level attention for protection in the future. This is a big problem that we need to deal with right now. It began in Tanzania, into Malawi, into Mozambique, into Zambia, parts of the Congo, and so on. Persons with albinism need to have their right to life protected. It’s not a disease, it’s not a curse. It’s a condition that is hereditary due to absence of melanin. We are working on being able to bring proper sensitization and mobilization of persons with albinism to, first, the individuals with albinism, to their society, to their government, and to the world. The major challenge is reaching persons with albinism. It’s in areas of health and education. Children with albinism, most of them are still not going to school. Parents are afraid their children may be kidnapped and sold for witchcraft. Others is because they don’t have proper eye care. I had a school teacher who thought that I would not make it in a mainstream school. She didn’t understand my condition. She told my parents that I’m mentally impaired. Had we gone with her diagnosis, I’d be a very different person right now. First, accept the person, and when you’ve accepted them, then find out if they’ve got any challenges that you can help. Persons with albinism in Africa are diagnosed with skin cancer, and we quickly worked with the government in partnership to mitigate for the people that I lead. We treated 2,475 persons in the past 10 years, and all the bills were paid by the government. We just need to be integrated into the existing programs, and new programs created to protect us and create awareness. The government needs to be pushed with the support of civil society. It is possible to have governments play a stronger role in the fight against violence and attacks. When we speak frequently in a constructive manner, when we work together, it’s a sign of a brighter future for persons with albinism. The minute we start to create an understanding and demystify all the myths, people start to learn, they start to become comfortable. And, also, people with albinism, as well, are starting to develop a sense of self. So it has to be a whole reconstruction from all avenues, from the medical practitioners to teachers in schools to the entire society at large, so that when you see me, you see Jane. We envision a society with equal opportunity for all persons with albinism to thrive, to make it in life, to become successful, and live purposefully.

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