Today, 13th June 2018, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the global community in commemorating the International Albinism Awareness Day. This is a day that was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with Albinism. Since the start of the commemoration of the International Albinism Awareness Day in 2015, the Day has drawn considerable regional, continental and global attention, as well as awareness of the human rights of persons with Albinism. This day serves to remind us of the harsh realities faced by persons with Albinism and parents of children with this condition.
In many parts of the world, including Southern Africa, Albinism is grossly misunderstood and people living with Albinism continue to live in a constant state of fear, owing to the attacks, killings and societal prejudices against them. People with Albinism, young and old alike, live in isolation and are deprived of their rights, including the right to life, right to health and right to education and work. Consequently, they are often times, trapped in the cycle of poverty. Efforts and commitment by all are required to stop these atrocities.
Due to security concerns, some families have been forced to relocate from their communities to urban areas which are considered to be relatively safe. Sadly, most widespread beliefs, myths and misconceptions about people with Albinism affect children and women disproportionately. Of great concern is that, in some cases, abuses against people with Albinism are perpetrated and abetted by people entrusted with the responsibility of protecting them.
On this day, we recognize the efforts of men and women who are working hard to ensure the safety of people with Albinism as well as governments, community members, non-state actors and civil society organisations that are raising awareness and advocating for the respect of the rights of people with Albinism. We also applaud SADC Member States that have put in place policy and legislation to protect people with Albinism. We encourage others that have not done so to consider initiating dialogue with a view to enacting legislation that protects and promotes rights of people with Albinism. While appreciating the progress made, we need to further take concrete measures to protect the rights of people with Albinism. We must continue to raise awareness on Albinism and address the deep-rooted myths and misconceptions associated with this condition. The safety of children with Albinism both at home and at school must be guaranteed, because, if they are given the right environment and education, they too, can grow up and contribute to the SADC vision, we all aspire for. We must create an environment where people with Albinism can live and enjoy their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights to their fullest potential.
To achieve this, we must be unanimous in our condemnation of all forms of abuse, prejudice and discrimination perpetrated against people with Albinism. We must put these acts to the utter end. People with Albinism should never be treated as lesser human beings. We can only achieve this if we work together with utmost resolve and renewed commitment.
Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax
SADC Executive Secretary
13th June 2018, Gaborone, Botswana