Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
In commemoration of the 2019 national conference on Albinism, Albinos took to the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to create awareness against the high level of stigmatisation and maltreatment against them by the society. They declared that they are normal and should be treated equally.
They complained there are people especially in Abuja suburbs and some other parts of the country, where they are regarded as taboos and killed after birth. They said that in some instances, women who give birth to albinos are driven out of their matrimonial homes, while some see them as only for rituals.
The two-day programme did not only stop at the awareness walk, but also had some artworks done by children displayed. There was also free eye and skin tests, presentation of sunshades and lenses to the children to aid them in the learning activities.
Founder/CEO, Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle, said the discrimination of people with albinism started even before him. He noted that it was because of the level of discrimination and stigmatisation he faced that made him to set up the foundation to make ensure that generations of albinos to come would not suffer what he went through.
He said: “We are here to join the world to celebrate albinism day under the theme ‘Still Standing Strong; Advancing the Albinism Cause.’ I believe God called me to lead the group and anybody following us will agree with that, if not for God I would have folded up long ago because it is a little bit frustrating but I enjoy it.
“We are aware that there are still some parts of FCT where albinos are killed, discrimination starts from me. We are doing our best but most of the reasons for these discriminations should be stigmatization and superstitious beliefs. The more people come to learn the truth the less superstition.”
He appealed to the Federal Government to give albinism a first line budget or give ministries that work directly with them special budget to enable them meet their needs.
Country Director, Christian Blind Mission (CBM), Bright Egweremadu, said his organisation works in the area of inclusiveness with any form of disability which albinism is part when it comes to eye health and the skin. He added that part of their work is to make sure that persons with albinism are not discriminated against and are allowed to discover their full potentials:
“Let Nigerians know that albinism is not a defect, it is only a condition and it can affect anybody, based on the theory behind albino. Today is a day set aside to create awareness about albinism and make people know that it is not a condition to run away from.
“I know there are mythologies in several African cultures, describing albinos in different ways. These are mere misconceptions that need to be corrected through awareness. Albinos are normal like everyone of us, should not to rejected, should not be stigmatised.”
Some albinos who spoke with Daily Sun confirmed the high rate of stigmatisation and discrimination. Cynthia Ukachi from Imo State said she never knew she was an albino when she was a child because of the kind of family she was born into. But when moved into the larger world as an adult it became a different thing altogther because of the way people treated and looked down on her:
“Albinos are discriminated and looked down upon, you can see that in schools and working places. For instance in schools you are not given a role because they you can’t perform. You have to go extra mile to get whatever you want as an albino.
“In terms of jobs it takes special recommendations for you to be employed as an albino then you begin to look down on someone. It affects the person’s mentality and he will begin to feel inferior. It takes a positive mind to be strong and live in this country with albinism because wherever you go you are treated like nobody.
“We need to change the mentality of people on albinism, even the parents with albinos don’t like to enrol the children in school because they themselves look down on their children.
“The earlier we start sensitising people living with or without albinism that intelligence and capabilities has nothing to do with colour, the better. There is need for inclusion in government policy and employment opportunities.”
Zanab Yusuf from Kogi State also confirmed that the persons with albinism are highly stigmatised by the society: “If the government can pass a law that will penalise those that discriminate people with albinism, I think it will go a long way to reduce the level of stigmatisation.
“Albinism is not a disease. People with albinism are talented and beautiful, so, you should not look down on yourself or allow anybody to intimidate you”.
Some mothers with children living with albinism confirmed that they are stigmatised, discriminated upon by the society and some family members. They appreciated God for the gift of special children but lamented that it is faced with a lot of challenges.
Gloria Onoja, mother with four albino children, said they are highly discriminated upon but she is not regretting having them as her children: “l have dark children too but when I gave birth to albinos God blessed me with a lot of favour. There are many challenges connected to albinism, including poor vision, the sun affects them that is why you always see them with long sleeve and sunshade.
“There is a special cream for them. We are calling on the government to assist in the areas of studies because they are not like other children they need more attention which has to with money.”
Juliet Ugochukwu, a mother of three beautifuI albino girls agreed that children with albinism are been stigmatised by the society but she took it up herself to build confidence in her childern by making that they are beautiful and equal with any human:
“I appreciate God because the case of my children is different, people admire them. I always encourage them not to allow people to intimidate them because they are equal and normal like every other person.
“It is not easy to take care of them because I don’t allow them to play under the sun. I try to balance their food though I don’t select foods for them, they eat everything.”