For them, they are intelligent, responsible, hardworking, and enterprising to contributing their own effort and quota to the development of the country but the way people in the society have treated them have been appalling and atrocious, with government paying low or no-attention to their challenges.
These are the views of the people living with albinism when they mark the International Albinism Awareness Day. The program that is usually celebrated on June 13 was marked by The Albino Network Association, an organization that was principally established for persons with albinism was held at the Medical Staff Club of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos.
All around the world, albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically. The physical appearance of persons with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalization and social exclusion that leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.
According to a United Nation report, Africa has the highest rate of discrimination and stigma. Information on cases of physical attacks against persons with albinism is highly extreme in Tanzania, where the killing of albinos for their body parts are used as good luck charms, ritual and sacrifices. Daniel Okechukwu, an albino who is a music teacher narrated his pathetic experience he has had with people when relating with them.
“They discriminate and stigmatize against us. Sometimes you are in a relationship with black girl and it has gotten to the extent of knowing her parents, she tells you that do you expect me to introduce you an albino to my parents.”
Omotola Bamgbose who is a trader also corroborated what Okechukwu said on how people related to them.
“Some people don’t relate to us as they should, they discriminate against us, talk down on us because they believe that albinos cannot see as they are, or we cannot do what they are doing – they think we don’t have the strength they have”, he said.
She revealed that she will want to marry an albino like her but the economic situation in Nigeria may not allow her to do so.
According to her, “To manage the skin is expensive. That is why I can’t go for someone with my skin colour because if I have someone with my skin colour it is very certain that I will have a child that is an albino. Having children that are albinos with their father will be very expensive for us to manage.”
She said that black guys are interested in her and one of them is ready for relationship with her.
Also narrating his own challenge as an albino, Jayeola Bamidele Fatungase – a chartered Accountant said that the time he face challenges most was when he was in primary school.
Fatungashe said that he had difficulty in seeing the black board because of his low vision that made him sit in front of the class.
According to him, “even with that I still don’t see the black board until I stand to the board to see what the teacher wrote on the board.”
He said that the other challenges he had was inferiority complex which hindered him from socializing… “when you want to socialize, go to party – you will want to speak up to some members of the opposite sex, and you run into challenges.”
The Chartered Accountant cited the case of her wife who used to tell him that people were telling her why she married an albino whenever they have rancor in the family. None of them came to me directly to say anything they may have been saying one or two things behind me. At times when there is quarrel between us, she used to say that her relatives used to warn her why she had to marry an albino but that does not happen. I am very united with my in-laws.
Nnemeka Chikwem’s view is different when it comes to an albino having female and male partners in a relationship.
Chikwem, who is a final year student studying Psychology at the University of Ibadan revealed that he’s in a relationship with female partner who is a black girl.
When he was asked how he crossed the road of dating the lady, he said that he I did not see himself as a different person.
“I see myself as unique person. I met her normally, the whole attraction happened I saw her and for a particular time, I was noticing her in school. I later spoke with her and she liked it, I asked her about my interest and she was also interested. And we have been dating for almost two years now”, he revealed.
If his colleagues accept him as an albino when it comes to engaging and relating with him in class, “That depends on how I bring myself to them, they will surely say somethings that will be annoying sometimes, when you respect yourself, they will also respect you too.”
“We are unique though we have our weaknesses but we albino are very intelligent. Our sight should not be used as a setback against us they should look at our intellectual ability”, he urged.
Giving the keynote address at the program, the former Deputy Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly and present Special Adviser to Governor Ibikunle Amosun on Power, Honourable Bola Gbeleyi attributed the importance of this year second celebration for people with albinism as an awareness day to promote inclusion to celebrate diversity and encourage the right of albinism to be recognize by diverse people.
“They need to be recognized for who they are, people with albinism have their unique needs, they have difficulties in reading with eyes sight even with their skin as they are not supposed to be exposed to too much heats and sunlight. All these need to be recognized by the wider community, the need to be given the opportunity to live like any other person to actualize their rights under UN charter for human right”, he advised.
He said that the country is not doing badly when it comes to protecting the albinos unlike other African countries where people with albinism are seen as people they can use as sacrifice or good luck for other people.
Gbeleyi who was at the program gave a speech on behalf of his late uncle, Late William Olabode Fagbile who was a co-founder of the association with Mr. Yemi Dada who is an albino and live in London.
According to him, “my uncle planned this association together with Mr. Dada to give support to people living with albinism.”
He urged the government to do more to support them. There is enough law in place; we just need the political will to be a game changer, those who will facilitate more programs, inclusion recognition, diversity for them and other supports to give them.
“They should be supported in all what they want. We should encourage them to be in position of authority, to be part of decision and policy maker. In England, there was a blind man, David Becket who was the Minister for Education and he did very well as the Minister of Education. We need to encourage people in disability to be in government”, he urged.
Also speaking at the program, Senior Lecturer and Consultant Physician Dermatologist, Lagos State University College of Medicine and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Dr Funmi Ajose expatiate what albinism is all about.
She explained that albinism is a congenital disorder defect in or damage in a developing fetus characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin.
Dr. Ajose explained further that the primary cause of albinism is inheritance of recessive gene that could be noticed with absence of color in the hair, skin, or eyes, lighter than normal coloring of the hair, skin, or eyes patches of skin that have an absence of color.
According to her, treatment for albinism can relieve symptoms and prevent sun damage which include sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV rays, protective clothing and sunscreen to protect the skin from UV rays, prescription eyeglasses to correct vision problems and surgery on the muscles of the eyes to correct abnormal eye movements.