‘Do not stare, just ask' that is the bold motto of Albinism Society of Kenya an organisation that strives to improve the lives of people living with albinism in the country. Its core objectives include awareness creation, legislative work, provision of sunscreen and eye care services, promotion of access to education for learners with albinism amongst other activities. Wikipedia tells me albinism is a genetic disorder characterised by complete or partial absence of a pigment in the skin, hair or eyes due to absence of an enzyme involved in production of melanin. Lack of skin pigmentation makes for susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers.
Its the myths associated with people living with albinism that have left many surrounded by negative connotations and stigmatised.They have fallen prey to selfish middlemen out to make a killing on behalf of witches.In a continent where the gap between the rich and the poor is over the roof, many are craving for instant riches and success. Consequently, manipulation comes to play. Its obvious one of Africa's tough challenge is illiteracy which is a step brother of ignorance.
The biggest threat to persons with albinism is misleading and negative belief about their condition. Since a majority of us especially people in the rural areas have limited knowledge and exposure, it becomes rich fodder for villains to mislead the community. Many victims are scorned, shunned, ridiculed, tormented, tortured and killed in cold blood all over africa. For them, viewing the sun rise and set is like a dream come true. Every new day brings along, more threats and renewed fears, call it stigma.
Their dreams have been shuttered and replaced with sorrow and prejudice from family friends and strangers. Some of the myths about persons with albinism are;
• They must die at a young age of between 30- 45years
• Sexual relations with them can cure HIV/AIDS
• They have magical powers
• They are portrayed as villainous , deviant , sadists and have supernatural powers
A film by the name 'In my Genes' best encapsulates challenges this people go through. It shares unique stories of seven Kenyans living with albinism. There is Agnes in the documentary who has defied the norm by refusing to live a life of sorrow. She has dared to stand out uncomfortably in the crowd. The film is a brain child of one Lupita Nyong'o a celebrated Kenyan film maker who has her eyes set in the international circles.
African leaders should take a cue from president Kikwete of Tanzania by appointing persons with albinism in high positions of government.The biggest responsibility and an equally perfect gift we can give to persons with albinism is through endeavoring to demystify myths about them. We have an obligation to make the society appreciate that, they are normal people only that they lack melanin just like many of us have flaws.