Social Awareness Initiatives
The aim of the Albinism Education and Social Awareness Initiative is to properly educate and orientate Nigerians about the true state of albinism and to help promote understanding, acceptance and socio-economic inclusion of PWAs into mainstream society.
The subject of albinism can best be compared to a young fetus in its maturity and therefore still remains relatively new in the Nigerian social sector. This likely stems from the ignorance that still preludes it. It wasn’t until recently that the challenges persons with albinism face became apparent to the public, and that, through an aggressive media drive. However, even up till this moment many civil society groups still do not fully appreciate the difficulties of the group. It therefore behooves the foundation to create the necessary awareness that infringes itself within the minds of the public as that is where true change begins.
Social Awareness as a tool for change
Perhaps it is essential to elucidate a bit further on awareness and its necessity in bringing about social change as regards perceptions concerning albinism in the society.
It is paradoxical that persons with albinism, one of the most outstanding genre of people among the general, mainly because of their peculiar distinguishing characteristics, remain one of the most underserved groups in Nigeria.
75% of the African continent has and is majorly associated with a various range of dark pigmented people, so an individual with albinism in their midst stands out conspicuously. Because of the striking deviation of what an African is expected to look like, especially in the pre-modern era of medical and scientific ignorance on the one hand, and the deep rooted culture of the continent on the other hand, families who had babies with albinism tended to either hide them or discard them one way or the other. Those who insisted on keeping them had to deal with the ridicule and mockery that accompanied their decisions, while some wives and mothers were even out-rightly driven out of their matrimonial homes on the grounds of their seeming infidelity.
Only as the world became enlightened in knowledge through the breakthroughs of modern science, did people gradually begin to understand the cause, but sadly, even at that, acceptance still remains slow.Awareness is cognizance, illumination, knowing. It is the lifting and exposure of something previously hidden in darkness, or in this case, ignorance.
Unlike some other conditions that develop in the course of life, albinism is congenital and acquired during fetal development by two fully pigmented individuals who carry the genes. Even though it is not essentially hereditary, as it jumps between generations, it still inherently remains in the bloodline.
The reduction or full absence of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair of a person with albinism does not in any way affect the functionality of their brain or personality; that is why it is crucial to have proper awareness of the condition; what it is and isn’t; so that behavioral patterns towards these people is not negative. Behavioral patterns of society, either negatively or positively, strongly affects and determines the sway of their psyche and in a society that is predominantly fixated on normal outward appearances, it comes as no small wonder that whatever confronts that norm is met with resistance and hostility.
The ignorance of families and the society in general, has firstly manifested itself through sunburn, freckles and in worst case scenarios, terminal skin cancer in persons with albinism. Many of the persons with albinism themselves remain ignorant on proper skin prevention and care, leaving many of them unhappy and unattractive, which further pushes them into isolation and a poor sense of self. Only the percentage whose parents were enlightened enough to infuse their children/wards with a healthy sense of self have gone ahead to break barriers and reach for their dreams.
Secondly, the same ignorance has made parents of children with albinism, write off their children as being unintelligent, unfocused and stubborn, not realizing that visual impairment was the culprit, and the children in their frustration of not knowing how to express themselves, become rebellious.
It is therefore essentially imperative that society begins to take critical notice about the cause of albinism, so they can play their role in creating the much needed change of a comfortable environment for persons with albinism to thrive in as every individual, irrespective of gender, race or disability, is an extension of one’s self, and as such, needs to be fully accepted and granted the utmost respect and the highest regard.
TAF’s efforts, in partnership with the Nigerian media, though commendable, is merely an ink drop of knowledge in an ocean of ignorance and requires much more support, especially from the public. As the African adage says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Without doubt, there is no basis of comparison between what an individual is able to achieve against what an entire community can.
Through aggressive media drives, social media, sensitization workshops, trainings, pamphlets and booklets, the foundation has pushed out into the public space, as much information on albinism as it can, cognizant of the strength that proper awareness has in bringing about social change.