Made to Shine, Reducing Inequalities: Tales from Africa

Since October 2015, four months after the United Nations General Assembly through the United Nations Human Rights Commission celebrated the First ever International Albinism Awareness Day, the Onome Akinnlolu Majaro, OAM Foundation has been at the forefront of Albinism advocacy in Nigeria, leading social campaigns in the promotion and enjoyment of rights of persons with albinism. Our efforts as an Albinism Awareness advocacy group has yielded tremendous efforts as we have been able to galvanize more Persons With Albinism, PWAs to rise and shine, be proud of their colour and see beyond the complexion. We continue to encourage PWAs to live meaningful and purposeful lives; developing them, acquiring skills and also contributing to the economic development of their communities. At the OAM Foundation, we do not believe in throwing pity parties. 

Albinism is a rare genetic condition which affects 1 in about 20,000 people globally. It has a high prevalence rate in sub Saharan Africa. For the average PWA, the fight for equality bothers more on our humanity. For PWAs to shine, then, we must not just be seen to enjoy, but we must actually enjoy our rights as humans. So when we talk about reducing inequalities, this is a battle we intend to win especially as we work together to achieve the decade of action for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. Albinism in any of its forms is the result of heritable mutations that lead to defective melanocytes, unable to properly synthesize melanin and to distribute it through dermal tissues. Reports say Nigeria has one of the highest prevalence rate in Africa with over 4 million persons  with Albinism while about 1, 000, 000 of them face discrimination and stigmatization annually. Albinism is the inability of the skin cells to produce enough melanin in the eye, skin and the hair, thereby making persons with albinism vulnerable to the harmful effect of the ultra-violet rays (UVR) from the sun. 

However, because of ignorance and lack of enlightenment, PWAs ,particularly in Africa, have been subjected to various types of inhuman treatments: discrimination from jobs, education, and social activities, as well as targeted for rituals in some environments. The tales from Africa are quite sad and disheartening. But despite these seeming sad stories emanating from Africa, there are PWAs who continue to defy the odds, showing that they are truly made to shine, and ensuring that they fight inequality. When we unite against stereotypes, see beyond the complexion and change negative perceptions, then shall we win the battle against inequality and the fight against discrimination. 

 

OAM Foundation was established in 2015 on the belief that enlightenment, added with a little act of love and kindness, can change the way people  with albinism, PWAs are treated. Our focus is to stimulate a movement that roots out socio-cultural stereotypes about albinism in Nigeria and the world, and plant the seeds of empowerment for people with albinism. OAM Foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs. Commissioned as an NGO with the vision of holistic empowerment of persons with albinism and creating awareness of the condition to dispel myths and superstitions, The  OAM Foundation has seasoned professionals on its Board of Directors, a dynamic Management Team, and a crop of volunteers. At the OAM Foundation, we are passionately committed to ending discrimination against people  with Albinism and to promote the wellbeing of PWAs who, in some parts of the world are misunderstood, marginalized and even attacked and killed because of their genetic condition. We understand that much of the discrimination and neglect suffered by PWAs can be traced to ignorance on the part of the public. 

 

Since 2015, the Foundation has been involved in helping thousands of PWAs both directly and indirectly to become the best version of themselves. From empowerment, education, awareness, confidence building, provision of sunscreen and medicated sunglasses to organizing several fora on issues concerning PWAs. We have strived to always show kindness because we believe that kindness changes everything. All our interventions have come from private funds and we do look forward to external donors and grants from those who share our vision. 

All these efforts on our part are geared towards reducing inequality, beginning from our end. We do not believe in throwing pity parties, we believe in the promotion and protection of our rights. We do not ask for inclusion and equality because we have been categorized as a vulnerable group, we make bold to call a sharp reduction in inequality because we believe that democracy fosters justice, inclusion and fair treatment. We are all humans, and we demand to be treated as such so as to reduce the sad tales from Africa.  

Chimezie Udechukwu

Director, Communications and Strategy

OAM Foundation

 

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