Celebrating the International Albinism Awareness Day: Shining our light to the world #JustLikeYou
The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) joins the rest of the world in celebrating the International Albinism Awareness Day, on 13 June 2018, running under the theme: “Shining our Light to the World.” The commemoration of this day serves as a timely reminder of the peculiar challenges faced by people with albinism and the need for us to remain diligent in collectively fighting for their rights.
As we commemorate the day, we remain concerned with the proliferation of attacks on persons with albinism in a number of states in Southern Africa. In the past year alone, cases of attacks on persons with albinism have been reported in DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. Whilst the attacks take different forms that include targeted violence, killings, abductions, harassment, marginalisation and social exclusion, they primarily emanate from a deep misunderstanding of the causes of the condition of albinism. Despite medical research that proves that albinism is a rare genetic condition present at birth caused by lack of melanin, many communities continue to associate the condition with outdated superstitious but erroneous beliefs and myths. These beliefs fuel the various forms of stigma, discrimination and attacks on persons with albinism. Of particular concern is the targeting of women and children who are continual targets of violence and are victims of societal discrimination, social exclusion, stigma and harmful cultural practices.
For this reason, OSISA takes this opportunity, on this day to urge all stakeholders-that include governments, CSOs, community, traditional and religious leaders and international development partners- to make collective concerted efforts to demystify the myths, cultural and ritualistic beliefs that fuel attacks and discriminatory practices against persons with albinism. We strongly believe that more investment should be directed towards educating and raising awareness within communities as part of debunking the myths around Albinism and providing adequate support where required to promote and protect their fundamental rights and freedoms. We see value in supporting partner efforts that focus on raising awareness and understanding of albinism in order to fight discrimination and stigma, and human rights violations against persons with albinism especially women and children.
As we celebrate the International Albinism Awareness Day, we see an opportunity to take stock of our collective efforts and refresh our commitments to do more for the persons with albinism. We reiterate our call on the need for the adoption of a holistic, rights-based strategy that confronts and debunks the anachronistic and ritualistic beliefs that fuel the attacks on people with albinism.
As we commemorate this day, we make the following specific recommendations:
- We call upon State actors in the region, as the primary duty bearers, to take specific legislative, policy, judicial and administrative measures in line with the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa, 2017-2021 , to ensure that rights of persons with albinism are protected;
- We particularly urge States and other stakeholders and the development partners in the region, to invest adequate time, financial resources and personnel in educating communities on the condition of albinism and debunking the myths and beliefs that fuel attacks and human rights violations against persons with albinism;
- We encourage Civil society Organisations to increase advocacy work with communities, government and other technical partners to articulate and spread messages that educate and empower communities to debunk the outdated myths on albinism;
- We call upon international development partners particularly through the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism to work closely with the governments, CSOs and technical partners to implement holistic strategies to combat attacks on people with albinism.
- We reiterate our call on SADC states to pass a Summit resolution condemning attacks on persons with albinism and jointly address the underlying drivers of the attacks.
For more information please contact:
Muzi Masuku, Programme Manager: Rule of Law, Access to Justice and Disability Rights