In September this year I will be challenging myself to an outrageous feat of personal endurance through the Scottish Highlands to raise money for the charity Standing Voice, which promotes the social inclusion of people with albinism in Tanzania. In the course of one week I will canoe the width of Scotland along the Great Glen, cycle 200 miles through remote mountain scenery and summit seven Highland mountains each over 3,000ft high.
And why am I doing this I hear you ask?!! Well it’s simple … because I want to fundamentally change the lives of Tanzanians with albinism who face extreme human rights abuses due to the rife stigmatisation of the condition in the country. I want to personally contribute to ensuring these people can live with dignity and respect. People with albinism have a melanin deficiency in the body which makes their skin and hair white, and causes them to be incredibly vulnerable to skin cancer. Albinism also causes a rare type of visual impairment.
Tanzanians with this condition face unimaginable social isolation and discrimination ranging from abandonment at birth, to exclusion from educational and life-saving health services, and violent mutilation and murder.
The stigma that surrounds them has been ingrained within society for many generations and throughout their lives they battle with prejudice, social exclusion and isolation. Seen as a curse from God, they are believed to bring bad luck to the households they are born in to. Many are killed at birth or rejected by their families. Judged by their skin colour alone they are continually dehumanised and ostracised within their communities.
In the face of such extreme prejudice these people suffer multiple deprivations in Tanzania. Marginalisation from essential health services has led to epidemic rates of skin cancer. As a result people with albinism only have a 2% chance of seeing their thirty-fifth birthday. In addition people with albinism face many challenges at all levels of national education system. This has created illiteracy and a low level of employment. To put this in numbers: merely 10% of children with albinism in Tanzania are enrolled in secondary school, compared to the national average of 65%!
The stigmatisation facing people with albinism has reached an unimaginable new level in recent years with over 75 people brutally murdered in Tanzania since 2006. Many others have been left mutilated. There have been 135 reported attacks within the last 9 years. This practice has been fuelled by misguided witchcraft. Some witchdoctors say that magic charms are more powerful if they contain body parts from people with albinism, which has led to an absurd criminal trade in these body parts.
For the past 4 years I have been working on this issue and I can tell you, Standing Voice's work is a lifeline for the thousands of people we work with round the clock. Please watch this short clip to listen to some of the individuals we work with on a day to day basis: Ukerewe Voices. The man in red in this video is Paschal. He was a victim of an attack in 2013. Following a rescue initiative by Standing Voice he now lives in a safe new house, and has stable employment.
I need your help to make a difference to these people's lives and kindly ask for your support as I aim to raise £3,500. Please donate today.
How you will make a difference
£1,000 will fund transformative university education for a young person with albinism for one year
£850 will send a child with albinism to a high achieving secondary school to access an exceptional education for one year
£560 is the cost of one liquid nitrogen tank required for life-saving preventative skin cancer treatment
£150 will professionally train an optometrist to meet the complex vision needs of children with albinism in school
£65 will pay for a dermatologist for one day in a skin cancer clinic
£20 provides visual aids for a child with albinism so they are able to study effectively at school
£10 will pay for a person with albinism to attend one of our life saving skin cancer prevention clinics where they will receive sunscreen and on the spot treatment for skin cancer
£5 provides a month’s supply of sun screen to protect a person with albinism against skin cancer
More about Standing Voice
Standing Voice promotes social inclusion and works to stop human rights violations against marginalised groups. We exist to give the disempowered vital tools and platforms to speak back to their society and reassert their presence and equality. We strive to nurture people’s understanding of others so that in the future these marginalised groups will be embraced by society. And in the meantime, we provide the essential basic needs they have been unrightfully denied.
We currently promote the social inclusion of those living with albinism in Tanzania through the following programmes:
Standing Voice advances Tanzanian responses to this issue. We promote the expertise and skills of Tanzanian professionals through training programmes and utilising Tanzanian professionals to lead on all aspects of our service delivery. Your donation will therefore be a an investment in a brighter future for people with albinism in Tanzania.