In Mozambique A Mural Writes, “People With Albinism are the Same as You!”

As reported by the Human Rights Watch; in Mozambique, a grassroots organization to support people with albinism is using murals to spread awareness and a positive image of the disease. The five murals show an image of two young girls delightfully holding hands; one with albinism, one without. Printed below it, translated into English, reads, “People with albinism are the same as you!”
The artist is using their art to paint the condition in a positive light. This is part of an effort to fight against the ostracization experienced by the albino community in Subsaharan Africa, where the disease is the subject of various myths of witchcraft.

Albinism

Albinism is a a category of rare conditions defined by a deficiency or total lack of melanin. Melanin is the pigment used by the body to create color in our hair, skin, and eyes. Without it, people with albinism tend to have very light features and be very sensitive to the sun, exponentially increasing their risk of skin cancer. People with albinism also experience vision issues. The disease is genetic and has no cure, but treatment is symptomatic.

Discrimination And Historical Myths

While albinism is quite rare, affecting around 1 in 20,000 in Europe and North America, but it’s much more common in Sub-Saharan Africa. Where Mozambique is located, around 1 in 1,000 people live with the disease. Samer Muscati, Associate Director of the Disability Rights Decision of HRW, explained how  those with albinism were treated discriminately by many layers of society.
They note that barriers ensue from youth, with people with albinism often treated without the respect they deserve from teachers and peers, and they do not receive assistance to compensate for their visual impairment.
The Human Rights Watch wrote, “In late 2014, there was a surge of attacks on people with albinism in Mozambique, including kidnapping and trafficking. At the peak in 2015, the UN independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism received reports from nongovernmental groups of over 100 attacks that year alone.”
Myths surrounding the disease not only create widespread discrimination. The HRW continued, “A belief in witchcraft is one of the root causes of attacks, the independent expert said, with assailants believing that body parts from people with albinism can produce wealth and good luck.”
 This can deter children with albinism and their families from feeling safe letting their child walk to school, therefore blocking their education. Muscati believes authorities need to improve efforts to prevent such discrimination and combat the problematic stigma.

Tackling Systemic Barriers

Now, efforts are being made by to improve access and remove the systemic barriers that hold people with albinism back.
The Human Rights Watch visited dozens of people affected by albinism in Mozambique to get a fuller picture of their experience and the sticky points that deter their access in their communities. They saw a changing story. Rosa, 34, told them as a child she had rocks thrown at her due to the color of her skin and was told it made her a witch.
In 2015 though, the Mozambique government committed themselves to taking more tangible steps to combat discrimination towards those with albinism, part of which involves community education and understanding of the disease.

The Murals Spreading Light

The murals are part of this project to change how people see those with the disorder. 9-year-old Josina, featured in the murals, shows how far the country has come. Already, she faces a vastly different future and is embraced by her friends and family. The mural features her with her niece. Josina said to HRW,
 “She is my best friend. She is always asking if I’m ok, she helps me read after school and she looks after me.”

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