On June 13, UNIC Harare joined hundreds of Zimbabwean people born with albinism in celebrating their talents and achievements during the first-ever International Albinism Awareness Day. The event, which was held at Harare Gardens in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, was also used to highlight the challenges they face.
The International Albinism Awareness Day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014 in response to the “growing international understanding of the need to fight against discrimination and stigma against persons with albinism while also addressing root causes,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his statement to mark the Day.
He noted that although people with albinism can live normal, healthy and productive lives given the right opportunities, “far too many suffer isolation, mutilation and even death because of persistent discrimination and ignorance surrounding their condition.
“Continued reports of gruesome violations, killings and attacks against persons with albinism, including children, women and persons with disabilities, and the elderly, remain a deep concern. Persons with albinism continue to live in fear of their lives. Yet the resilience and courage of the survivors of these attacks and the abilities of persons with albinism, and the degree of commitment of those who work for the enjoyment of their rights is heartening,” said Ban Ki-moon.
According to Talent Maunganidze, a lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University who was also born with albinism, many people with albinism are mistreated.
He said children are labelled “murungudunhu,” a Shona term which is derogatory. Added to that, the majority of people born with albinism are short sighted and furthermore, most people do not want to associate closely with them. The sun is also their enemy, as it gives them pimples, Maunganidze said, adding that hats help to minimize the amount of sun going to the skin.
In a work environment, they can be employed but not paid said Gibson Gurumani.
“The government should assist by giving us places to live and also with projects so that we can be self sustaining,” he said.
Women born with albinism also face the risk of being raped because of the myth that “if you sleep with a person born with albinism you will get cured, a belief that is false, said Gwen Marange, Alive Albinism Initiative Director.
“We do not heal HIV. It is a myth. We say No to superstitious beliefs,” said Marange.
The United Nations has pledged to continue mobilizing international action to eradicate all forms of discriminatory practices against persons with albinism.