Government has called for an end to the stigmatisation and discrimination of people with albinism, as South Africans observe National Albinism Awareness Month.
National Albinism Awareness Month is dedicated to people with albinism, to highlight their pride, challenges and finding solutions.
“We have the opportunity to pause, reflect and remember that not all persons are treated equally, and that many people with albinism continue to suffer human rights abuses and violations, often invisibly and in silence,” the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities said in a statement on Monday.
The department said people with albinism continue to face an uphill struggle to attain a life with dignity and equality, and fight against injustice and multiple forms of discrimination because it is still profoundly misunderstood – socially and medically.
Albinism is a rare genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair or eyes and occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world.
The department said during this month, all endeavours should be channelled towards the provision of information on albinism to create awareness.
The department, in collaboration with the National Albinism Task Force, will host an Albinism Community Outreach programme and webinar for youth with albinism to engage on pressing issues faced by youth and people with albinism in the country.
This year’s National Albinism Awareness Month is celebrated under the theme: ‘Inclusion is strength’, which builds from last year’s theme of ‘United in making our voice heard’.
The theme aims to ensure the inclusion of the voices of people with albinism in all sectors of life, and emphasises the importance of inclusion of a diversity of groups from both within and outside the albinism community.
“This will help people to understand people with albinism and the challenges they face. People must understand that albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition which occurs worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender.
“People with albinism are entitled to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights recognised in the Bill of Rights and our Constitution in South Africa,” the department said.
The department called on people in communities and workplaces, both in the public and private sectors, to organise Albinism Awareness Month activities. These include organised talks about albinism, fun days, picnics, charity walks and fun runs.
White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
South Africa has a White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is a call to action for government, civil society and the private sector to work together to ensure the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities is achieved, and this includes people with albinism.
The department emphasised that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are particularly relevant, and both guarantee protection against discrimination.
“Equality and non-discrimination are essential human rights principles for people with albinism, owing to their vision impairment and their needs regarding preventive measures to address their vulnerability to skin cancer.”