Albinism Is Just A Colour: Save Albino’s In Africa
Albino’s in Africa live under the shadow of monstrous prejudices, from superstition to social stigma. They live under the fear of being prosecuted and have their body parts sold and used, for simply being born with albinism, they are victims of a harrowing bias, labelled as ‘The ghost people’.
Persecution of people with albinism is based on the belief that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers. Such superstition is present especially in some parts of the African Great Lakes region, it has been promoted and exploited by “witch doctors” and others who use such body parts as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions with the claim that their ‘magic’ will bring prosperity to those who consume it.
Albinism is a rare genetic condition which affects the pigment in the eyes, hair and skin. The most common and most severe type in sub-Saharan Africa is ocular albinism which gives people white hair, pink skin, low vision or blindness and a greater susceptibility to skin cancer.
In Tanzania, albinos represent one in every 1429 births, a much higher rate than in any other nation. According to Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer, an albino member of parliament, there are 6977 officially registered albinos in Tanzania. However, it is believed that there may be up to 17000 undocumented. Discrimination towards albinos exists in 180 countries including Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya. Data shows violent attacks against people with albinism are reported in four ways:
- Criminal activity
- Cultural practice
- A socio-economic phenomenon
- A human rights issue
I spoke to Peter Kiprop Koima, A human rights activist based in Kenya, who works with Albinos and campaigns for their rights on social media:
“There are various stereotypes and misconceptions about albinism, some people believe that Albinos are born as a result of curse and their body parts can be used in some rituals, There are those who believe that potions and charms made from the body parts of albinos are guaranteed to bring success” Explains Peter.
#AlbinismIsJustAColour is a tagline Peter and his team created to raise awareness about albinism across Africa.
“It carries the message that, apart from the skin colour, we are all equal and the same. People living with Albinism, they can live a normal life and sometimes be more successful that those with normal skill colours despite the challenge of evading sun rays here and there because it’s harmful to them.”
Peter teamed up with ‘Hilten Wear’, a clothing line and ‘Kiptabut crew’, a comedy crew, both based in Eldoret, to spread awareness and work with Albinos.
“Both teams love giving back to community and so, looking at the challenges kids from Ilulla Albinism Centre go through, we decided that we are going to be visiting them in their school, buy them food, mingle and play with them and then have a word of encouragement to them that they can be someone someday in future despite the challenges they might be going through.”
The young activist believes that that raising awareness is very important in combating the stigma and that the governments also have a responsibility to protect albinos against molestation or killings by enacting laws that will protect them.
“To those who still hold superstitions about people living with Albinism, I wish to tell you that those beliefs are not real. Not at all, albinism is a skin condition caused by lack if pigmentation called melanin which makes our skin colours and not a curse as many believe.”
He’s right. There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. No one should live like this, simply because they are born a certain way. Public health awareness is an important first step. And adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritised. But above all we need to educate those who still strongly believe in the mythical superstition and ensure no life is lost under it’s name.
As Peter says:
“Albinism is just a colour outside but we are all the same inside.”