With support from the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS), Caritas Tabora designed an intervention to raise awareness and sensitize the community on the rights of People with Albinism in the 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, a number of stakeholders were largely engaged in the project and a different intervention was used to deliver the message and achieve the intended goal. Among the interventions were training sessions, workshops, campaigns, roadshows, cinema shows, Information, Education, and Communication (IEC)s materials and awareness meetings.
Beneficiaries were People with Albinism including parents and caregivers, 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 in actively engaging in social-economic activities such as farming in the sun, low vision, the worst challenge that they faced was insecurity due to amputation of their body parts & 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 these false beliefs 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 People with Albinism 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 Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) in Tabora region Ms. Blandina Joseph said
‘‘In recent times these awful actions against people with albinism have largely reduced and the situation has normalized. Now we can walk freely without the fear of being attacked or name-calling in the streets as people used to call us ‘’the deal,’’ These problems were too serious that we could not move out of our homes. We are thankful that now with efforts of the government and stakeholders such as Caritas such treatment has stopped.
Photo 1 Mr. Ramadhani Mramba and Ms. Blandina Joseph in an interview for this story
The situation has improved tremendously as partners and stakeholders worked hard to address those challenges. Active involvement has been vital in normalizing the situation and embedding People with Albinism reintegration in society.
Social Inclusion of People with Albinism
Moreover, Mr. Ramadhani Mramba alluded that ‘‘the acts of stigmatization/exclusion of people with albinism have widely decreased, in the past, a person with albinism could never marry a person who was not an albino. Now that is no longer the case because I am married to a person without albinism, I am not an exceptional case as there are others as well’’. Additionally, he said,’’ Now People with Albinism feel free to exercise their political rights as they also contest in various local leadership positions as they feel like they are part of the community now than before. I thank stakeholders and credited Caritas who is supported by FCS for the campaign against the violation of rights of people with albinism.
Traditional healer accounts.
Culprits of the incidences of abductions, mutilations, and killings of People with Albinism were traditional healers. Witch doctors and ill advising traditional healers 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 People with Albinism. One of the beneficiaries is Mr. Habibu Shabani Ndutu (63), a traditional healer had this to say on the intervention
‘‘I really appreciate the support of Caritas extended to myself and the community I lead, despite the fact that I work as a traditional healer, I am also a traditional chief of the Wayegetribe. In the past due to threats faced by People with Albinism as the result of the killings related to witchcraft, enmity was created between us and the community. It was difficult for us to support People with Albinism 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 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.’’
Caritas also used various tactics to advocate for the rights of people with albinism including holding traditional dance group competitions and those who took part participated in campaigns to sensitize and raise awareness to stop harmful practices on People with Albinism. Mr. Habibu’s group won the competition and their group was given t-shirts with messages that advocate for the rights of people with albinism.
Improved and protected lives of People with Albinism
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 People with Albinism. The clinic is organized every after six months to check on the health of People with Albinism where they either receive treatment at the regional hospital or referred to other bigger hospitals.
Mr. Timoth Chombo, the Executive Director for Caritas said ‘’In implementing the intervention we included all the stakeholders in order to advocate for the rights of people with Albinism so that we fight for their rights from all fronts. I am happy now there have been no incidences related to persecution of albinos reported in Tabora and also their health is taken care too’’
 It was one of verbal harassment which involved name-calling and mocking People with Albisims s on the streets to suggest that their body parts can bring wealth when ‘processed’ with magic powers possessed by witch doctors.