Below regular TDT web writer Ashura Kayupayupa reports on attitudes towards albinos and albinism in Tanzania.
Further down you can read a summary of a recent visit to the Special Needs section of Masasi Primary School, which includes a number of albino children. This was one of the first projects TDT began to support 41 years ago. Note the priorities listed by the Deputy Head, including sun cream (skin cancer being an ever-present danger for people with albinism) and fencing “to protect albinos”.
Gender Dimensions of Albinism
Gender-based sexual assaults on women with albinism are common in Tanzania due to the bizarre belief that having sexual intercourse with women with albinism could cure HIV/AIDS of the perpetrator.
These misconceptions and malicious belief not only contribute to women and young girls being raped, but furthermore make them more susceptible to HIV/AIDS infections, which – due to the poor medical conditions in Tanzania – infringes on their right to life and security.
On the other hand, there are regular reports of cases of women who were abandoned by their partners for bearing a child with albinism. One of the famous examples is from Kenya where Hon. Isaac Mwaura an MP in the Kenyan Parliament was denied by his father as soon as he was born due to albinism. His father abandoned both Mwaura and his mother.
It is assumed that women are solely responsible when a child with albinism is born in the family. Hence they are punished and bear the consequence of giving birth to a child with albinism by abandoning them.
Children with Albinism at Mitindo primary & boarding school in Misungwi village— in Mwanza, Tanzania. The school is about 50KM from Mwanza town; most children have been abandoned by their parents/ guardians. The facility was built by the government, but there are many more children than a school can afford to have.
Photograph Credit: Ashura Kayupayupa
One of the first cases reported on the atrocities against a PWA (Persons with Albinism) was a woman named Mariam Stanford whose hands were chopped off because of her albinism. Since then, most of the PWAs attacked or killed are women.
According to the recent statistics of the PWAs killings, it is recorded that over 70 PWAs have been killed. Among those killed or attacked, most of them are infants from six months to seven years old, women and girls.
Although there are males with albinism, apparently it is women and girls who are being attacked or killed for their body parts. It is critical to find out why only women and children PWAs are being attacked or killed but not adult males.
It is estimated that Tanzania has 7450 female police personnel. According to the 2012 census, Tanzania has about 45 million people, 51% of them are women. The number of female police officers is not sufficient for the needs of Tanzanian women who need the police service from fellow women.
Visit to Masasi School Special Needs Section
Back in the 1960s, Bishop Trevor Huddleston founded in Masasi a small school for blind children, and it was one of the first projects TDT began to support 41 years ago. (Note: albinism often leads to blindness).
The school has gone through many changes and is, at the moment, a unit of around 61 disabled students within a huge Government Primary school of 1400 pupils. All the pupils with disabilities are boarders.
We visited 2 years ago and the Special Needs Unit was in a dire state. We sent money for new toilets and the purpose of our latest visit was partly to see that the money had been spent well, in particular having heard of various staff changes.
We arrived to be greeted by Mwalimu Jerome Idrisa, the new Deputy-Head i/c of Special Needs. He has a 2-year additional Diploma in Special Needs, but he is also clearly keen and efficient and know and likes the children. The loos and showers we had paid for were excellent and spotless (all water flushed), although the boys’ facilities lack doors. Bw. Idrisa told us the doors were on site and would soon be fixed by a fundi.
The dormitories were in good condition and odour free, though lacking cupboard space. There is a matron and “patron” (i.e. house-father) who sleep in the same rooms as the children. Both seemed warm and competent, and the young man has begun a tree planting programme on site. We also met the cook and heard about the meals.
The children seemed well and lively, and many more of the albino children were wearing hats. Mwalimu Jerome said that there was a shortage of sun cream. We also met many of the teachers in the staff-room, hard at work marking – a purposeful atmosphere. Three of the teachers are visually impaired. We discussed future plans with the Deputy Head, and left thoroughly uplifted
Priorities mentioned by Mwl. Idrissa were:
- Braille equipment
- A fence to protect albinos
- Solar power as a back up in dormitories and toilets
- Sun cream