Community engagement project to address problems faced by albinos

ALCOZ musical group live performance

People with albinism face challenges in their lives some of which may not be known to the majority of people in our societies. Firstly, albinism itself may be misconstrued and it may be incorrectly attributed to various myths, beliefs, taboos etc., which may exacerbate the challenges faced by people with albinism. Some of the health-related problems faced by albinos could be alleviated if the understanding of families, relatives and communities regarding albinism could be enhanced. People who know best about problems surrounding albinism are the people with albinism themselves. It is therefore critical that people with albinism are included and central in any efforts by various stakeholders to address challenges that surround albinism. Although in Zimbabwe there are problems surrounding albinism that need to be addressed, the situation is not as bad as it is in some parts of Africa like in East African countries such as Tanzania where people with albinism are being murdered for ritual purposes and for other purposes derived from beliefs, myths and practices of the communities.

ALCOZ musical group live performance

It is critical to engage communities in which albinos live, if stigmatization and discrimination that negatively affect their lives are to be mitigated. Murders of albinos are to a large extent fuelled by spiritual, cultural and or religious beliefs as well as lack of understanding of the causes of albinism. In Zimbabwe, PHPAfrica is spearheading community engagement activities that involve such stakeholders as the Albino Charity Organization of Zimbabwe (ALCOZ), community leaders, traditional healers, religious organizations, ordinary members of communities, the police, artists, the media and other stakeholders.

Terrible twins perform live

The main objective of the project is to make efforts to mitigate problems faced by albinos through such activities as provision of sunscreens with protective factor, provision of spectacles, payment of school fees for albinos who are not attending school due to financial difficulties, vocational training of albinos to enable them to be employed or self-employed, counseling regarding the genetic condition of albinism and methods of protection from UV radiation which increases the risk of skin cancer.

The project is being implemented initially in Zimbabwe and subsequently in East Africa and other African countries as and when funds allow. In Zimbabwe community engagement activities are being done in remote rural areas as well as urban areas with media coverage to ensure that information dissemination reaches a wide and diverse audience. In order to collect empirical data to be factored into the community engagement activities in Zimbabwe, focus group discussions and in-depth structured interviews are being conducted with albinos, families of albinos, community leaders, the police, general members of the communities and other stakeholders. Various players interested in taking part in the planned community engagement activities have been brought on board so as to enable a participatory process right from the beginning.

Terrible twins perform live

Stakeholders that have been involved so far include two groups of musical artists, namely the Zimbabwe Albino Charity Organization of Zimbabwe (ALCOZ) Desciples and the Terrible Twins. The artists have composed songs conveying critical messages aimed at tackling stigmatization and discrimination surrounding albinism. With support from PHPAfrica, the songs have been recorded and the audio CDs are now available. PHPAfrica is also organizing drama groups in schools to be used during the community engagement project. When the project is scaled up to reach other African countries, a similar approach will be used.

 

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