This article was written By Collins Osariemen Omokaro, YaLa Alumni & Assistant Coordinator at The Albino Foundation, Benin Chapter, Edo State, Nigeria.
International Albinism Awareness Day, IAAD is a day set aside globally for persons with albinism. It is marked annually on June 13th to celebrate the human rights of persons with albinism.
The theme for this year’s IAAD is “Still Standing Strong“. It is a call to recognize, celebrate and support persons with albinism across the world and to support the cause and positive practice for the promotion and protection of their human rights.
Albinism is the lack of melanin pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hairs which protects from sun’s ultraviolet rays. In other words, melanin is the pigment that gives the skin, eyes and hairs their colour. Persons with albinism are persons lacking melanin pigments. They are vulnerable to medical complications. They continuously face social challenges such as discrimination, stigmatization and social ridicule in every setting they find themselves. They go through hardship most times not from the exposure of their skin to the sun but from those exhibited by their fellow human beings every single day. Albino children suffer incessant bullying from peers in schools which fosters a core of low self-worth and assertiveness. As a result, many persons with albinism (especially in Africa) do not have the social or economic tools to live productive lives. Lacking the confidence to compete favourably in the labour market and therefore unable to reach their full human potential and flourish like their peers. There are even reported cases of albinos who have committed suicide as a result of the challenges they face. For instance, the poverty and lack of education suffered by some albinos do not stem from any mental and physical disability but mostly as a result of discrimination, social exclusion and stigma and in some cases human right abuse they suffer as a result of their skin colour. Some parents neglect the wellbeing of their albino children believing that time spent for them is a waste. In some villages where they still adhere to absurd beliefs about albinism, persons with albinism face dehumanization believing that albino body parts can bring wealth. Some even believe that having sex with albinos can cure them of several diseases like AIDS. How ridiculous?
Thankfully, some spirited individuals and NGOs are working painstakingly to propagate the albinism cause far and wide, especially in villages where misconceptions about albinism still hold strong. They do this through awareness campaigns, workshops/seminars on albinism and empowerment of albinos. Although, only a few organisations who are concerned and are doing a lot in order to prevent discrimination and stigmatization of persons with albinism have been recorded and observed in recent years.
Mother Theresa said “I alone cannot change the world but I cast a stone upon the waters and create ripples”. Everyone’s effort is needed to make life comfortable for persons with albinism. They are humans like you. There is no difference in the colour of blood that flows through their veins – theirs is red, just like yours is red. So, why should they suffer hardship just because of a tiny flaw in their genetic make-up? Albinos need your love and care just like our fellow brothers and sisters. Stop the discrimination, stop the stigmatization and stop the social bullying.
Hence, this is the perfect time for this year’s theme. A time for albinos to be ejected from societal suffering and mockery. A time to stand with them. A time to alleviate their plights and propagate their cause. And for the albinos, a time to break out of self-pity and isolation, and to say, we are “Still Standing Strong“.