We have Our Smiles Back


7thOct


Introduction

With the support of the Foundation for Civil Society, Caritas designed this project to raise awareness and sensitize on rights of People with Albinism (PWA) in Tabora Municipality. The project birthed pathways to address the plight of albinos and helped them navigate through challenges. Further, it aimed to offer not just makeshift but long term solutions, in that sense, activities involved training sessions, workshops, campaigns and awareness meetings. Beneficiaries were People with Albinism including their leadership, students, teachers, traditional healers, local government officials, and political leaders.

 

Albinos Challenge & Persecution

One ordeal that confronts People with Albinism is their genetic condition which posed a challenge to actively engage in social-economic activities such as farming on sunny days, and doubly so, certainly much worse, they were facing insecurity due to persecution against them in Tabora and nearby regions.

Disturbingly, this was a result of witchcraft beliefs that the body part of a person with albinism is an ingredient in magic rituals to make one become rich. It was said then, that, witchdoctors largely perpetuated this false belief which led to abductions, dismembering and killings of People with albinism in Tabora and other regions such as Mwanza and Shinyanga.  

 

The situation has normalized now

The severity of the problem rendered many PWA including children and women homebound, accordingly affected their lives, and escalated social exclusion a recipe for a grim fate. Narrated on security threat and her firsthand experience on that, the chairperson of TAS in Tabora region Ms. Blandina Joseph said

 ‘‘In recent times these awful actions against people with albinism have been largely reduced and the situation has normalized. Now we can work freely without the past fear of being attacked or of name-calling in the streets as people used to call us ‘’the deal[1],’’ These problems were too serious that we could not move out of our homes. Thanks now that with efforts of the government and stakeholders such as Caritas that has stopped.

Photo 1 Mr. Ramadhani Mramba and Ms. Blandina Joseph in an interview for this story

The situation has improved as partners and stakeholders worked hard to address those challenges. Active involvement has been vital in normalizing the situation and embedding PWA reintegration in society.

We feel more of people now

Moreover, Mr. Ramadhani Mramba alluded that ‘‘the acts of stigmatization/exclusion has widely gone down, in the past, a person with albinism could never marry a normal person. Now that is bygone era because myself I am married to a person without albinism, this is not an exceptional case as there are other examples too’’. Additionally, he said now they feel free to exercise their political rights as they also contest in various local leadership positions as they feel more of the people now than before. He thanked stakeholders and credited Caritas which with the support of FCS had campaigned against the violation of rights of people with albinism.

 

Traditional healer accounts.

The incidences of abductions, mutilations, and killings of PWA had their culprits either perceived or real. The major ones were witch doctors and ill advising traditional healers who were identified as the major cause of these occurrences. Caritas organized a workshop to bring together the traditional healers in Tabora to raise their awareness of issues pertaining to the rights of PWA. One of the beneficiaries is Mr. Habibu Shabani Ndutu (63), a traditional healer had this to say on what he benefited

 

‘‘I am really appreciating the support of Caritas extended to myself and the community I am leading, as, despite the fact that I work as a traditional healer, I am also a traditional chief of the Wayegetribe. In the past due to the threat faced by PWA as the result of the killings related to witchcraft, enmity was created between us and the community. It was difficult for us to support a PWA as we were looked at as perpetrators. This is because of a few false traditional leaders who were lying to people that albino body parts can make a person become rich which is not true. In this project, I was also mobilizing other traditional healers to attend these sessions and learn. I have participated in 8 seminars and learned a lot that albinos are normal people, not devils. I appreciate the efforts by Caritas as the safety and harmony have come back to PWA and us.’’

 

Also, their traditional dance group had participated in campaigns to sensitize and raise awareness to stop harmful practices to PWA.  There were competitions of which they won and awarded Tshirts one of which is the one he holds in the photo below.

 

Photo 2

Improved care to PWA

Mr. Baraka Makona, Tabora region Social Welfare officer said they have been working hand in hand with stakeholders such as Caritas, and others such as Stand in Voice in organizing clinics at the regional referral hospital and offer support such as lotion, caps, and clinics for PWA. The clinic is organized every after six months to check on health of PWA where those with challenges do either receive treatment at the regional hospital or referred to other bigger hospitals.

 

Mr. Timoth Chombo, the Executive Director for Caritas said ‘in this project we included all the stakeholders in this challenge so that we fight it from all fronts. I am happy now there have been no incidences related to the persecution of albinos reported in Tabora also their health is taken care too’’

[1] It was one of verbal harassment which involved name-calling and mocking PWAs on the streets to suggest that their body parts can bring wealth when ‘processed’ with magic powers possessed by witch doctors.