18 June 2017

Tanzania: Crossroads - Plight of Vulnerable Groups of People

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The idea that a human being should make another human being to suffer because the latter lacks melanin makes any sense at all. For people with albinism, lack of melanin makes all the difference leading their skin pigmentation to be different.

This is a purely biological occurrence and that anyone, who punishes them for that shows one's own backwardness. It is sadistic, barbaric and pathetic and those involved are behind bars and not in free society.

In Tanzania, one in about 1,400 children are born with albinism. Since 2008, Tanzania has become renowned worldwide for killing people with albinism, where their body parts are used for witchcraft purposes. According to underthesamesun.com "witch doctors promote the belief that the organs, blood and hair of people with albinism have supernatural powers."

Tuesday (June 13) was the third International Albinism Awareness Day created by the United Nations in 2014. It seeks to end abuses against people with albinism. The day was established after lobbying by Canadian activist Peter Ash and the founder of Under the Same Sun after learning the tragic plight of those with albinism in Tanzania. His mission has been to get this minority group to get education, inclusion and protection. Mr Ash himself suffers the condition and he was discriminated against, while he was still a boy although the type of discrimination he saw in Tanzania and elsewhere was unfathomable.

A report by International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute indicates that in many countries people with albinism are not adequately protected. So far, Under The Same Sun has recorded 522 attacks and killings in 28 African nations, 172 of which are in Tanzania! The abuses faced by our brothers and sisters include human rights violations, attacks and discrimination. This needs to change.

This year's theme was "Advancing With Renewed Hope". Yes, they need hope and to have that hope, they need protection by the government and society. For instance, in Tanzania, we have Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria, which has become internationally renowned as a safe haven for people with albinism. But security is not the only problem they usually face. An NGO called Standing Voice claims that 98 per cent of people with albinism die from skin cancer before they turn 40.

Tanzania Albinism Society released a statement that indicates that their members experience discrimination and attacks and the government should be more proactive in creating awareness by educating members of the public.

I really like the idea of Under The Same Sun, where they have put children with albinism in private schools, where awareness has been created about their plight. They are with students without albinism. According to Mr Ash, many of them are doing very wellt. This means, when they graduate, hopeful they will make a great stride in all walks of professional life and this will be a great lesson for all societies in Tanzania.

The UN has been categorical that people with albinism have a right to live freely without discrimination, deprivation and fear. How a nation treats the minority, the under-privileged speaks a lot of its development or underdevelopment. The media in Tanzania plays a big role in bringing about light to the plight of people with albinism. Kudos also to the human right activists, who help raise public awareness on albinism.

The business community, teachers and all pressure groups across the country should play their part to ensure people with albinism feel our nation is theirs too and they have all the rights just as we are. I hope in the future Tanzania will be internationally acclaimed for caring people with albinism. They need our love, support and acceptance.

As a teacher, I would like to see families and schools, including children with albinism in-group activities and ensure they are not isolated. Academic institutions at all levels around the whole country must never discriminate against the minority.

Saumu Jumanne is an Assistant Lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).

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