In Africa, the life for people with albinism (PWA) has become a terrifying prospect in many countries. Particularly in East African nations, such as Tanzania and Burundi, sad misconceptions and superstitious beliefs propagated by witch doctors and an uneducated population has led to widespread persecution. Regular killings or mutilations are occurring based on superstitions about bad luck that these people bring or mythical powers they have.
A Change of Heart in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
In the DRC attitudes are changing though. Thanks to the work of NGOs and a range of special interest groups and individuals, people with albinism are being widely integrated into society and accepted rather than persecuted. 1 out of every 4000 Africans is born with albinism so the effect of this cultural shift in the DRC has been huge for families.
Persecution towards albinism has taken many forms in the past. Aside from killings, the most common and damaging effects have been isolation, a miseducated public, children dropping out of school early, and skin cancer.
Mwimba Texas has become an icon for people with albinism in the DRC. Sport is often a powerful tool in breaking down barriers and, as a wrestler with albinism, Texas is changing the perception of the condition in his native country. He speaks from the heart about albinism, and is helping to raise awareness about the issues associated with it by reaching out to the community through his sport.
Some of the greatest threats to people with albinism are the simplest: skin cancer and barriers to education. Although change is slow, the DRC is leading the way in educating the public through community initiatives, teaching families how to prevent skin cancer and increasing access to essential services to treat poor vision. The flow on effects to the classroom are important. Children with albinism need to sit at the front of the class and be included, not ostracized.
These changes are not things that can happen overnight, however through the concentrated efforts of a few, the seeds of change have now been sewn in the DRC. We just need to wait for the fruits to grow.