Challenging Africa’s albino stereotypes

The superstitions about albinos in Africa are plentiful
and dangerous.
In Tanzania last year, a 6-year-old boy had this arm
chopped off by witch doctors who believe potions and
charms made from the body parts of albinos are guaranteed
to bring success.
“There is also a belief that having sex with a person living
with Albinism can cure HIV; a superstition that has
increased cases of rape and infection among Albinos,”
says Kenyan student Peter Kiprop Koima. He is responsible
for the creation of the #AlbinismIsJustAColour hashtag,
which trended in Kenya this week.
Koima, who lives in Nairobi, told BBC Trending that he first
became interested in the issue of albinism when he heard of
a woman in a village outside the capital who “gave birth to
an albino kid. She felt like she had been ‘bewitched’ and she
didn’t want to keep the kid. She was contemplating for
murder.” But he and a group of his friends approached her
to give her support, “that made her she think about the child
positively. But we still have the challenge to make sure the
child is integrated with other kids who don’t understand
albinism.”
So he created the #AlbinismIsJustAColour hashtag because
“I want our community to appreciate the beauty in
albinism.” Many used the hashtag to do just that.
Around one in 20,000 people around the world are born
with oculocutaneous albinism, which is caused by a lack of
the pigment melanin, that gives hair, skin and eyes their
colour. And some who used the hashtag wanted to stress
that albinism is just a skin condition (Although it is
important to note that there are health implications too;
albinism in Africa brings with it an increased chance of
developing fatal skin cancer, and the lack of pigment to
protect eyes against the bright sun can cause sight
problems).
However, there are more serious issues to contemplate.
Celestine Mutinda, who has shared the hashtag and also
has albinism, told BBC Trending “some of us are scared of
walking along the streets of Nairobi. Sometimes while
walking some people do say ‘this is money’. They believe
that albinos can be sold. Some albinos end up isolating
themselves because of discrimination.”
A study by albinism awareness group Under the Sun found
that there were a total of 448 reported attacks on Albinos in
2015, across 25 African countries. The group said that the
attacks constituted “mutilations, violence, rape, attempted
abductions,” and that the “actual number of attacks &
killings of Albinos are likely much higher than indicated
since many are never reported or documented.”
The situation is particularly dire in Malawi. Last year a
United Nations human rights expert warned that albinos in
the risk what she described as “systematic extinction”.
Ikponwosa Ero, herself an albino, said the country’s 10,000
albinos were becoming “endangered” because so many of
them were being killed. This coming week, Amnesty
International will be releasing a report concentrating on
the violence against albinos in Malawi.
And these are some of the reasons that Peter Koima and his
friends decided to create this hashtag. They will also be
organising events at a local school for albino children in the
Rift Valley valley called the Illula Albinism Centre. “Our main
aim is to make sure they have equal opportunities when
growing up, competing for jobs, everything,” he told BBC
Trending.

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