15.06.2016 - UNESCO Office in Harare

Education and intercultural dialogue can eradicate discrimination against persons living with albinism

@ unesco , Mr Maunganidze, Zimbabwe Albino Association

Harare, 15 June 2016. “People with albinism face social problems, access to health services, access to education and under employment” said Gwen Marange, Alive Albinism Association, at the roundtable discussion organized by the United Nations Information Centre today in Harare. The event marked the celebration of the International Albinism Awareness Day. A large number of participants attended the event including representatives of the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, media representatives, UNESCO and other UN agencies.

Albinism is a genetic condition where people are born without the usual pigment (color) in their bodies. In 2013, The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism. “The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda pledges to leave no one behind. That includes people with albinism. The cycle of attacks, discrimination and poverty must be broken” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.


Persons with albinism face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide. For UNESCO, education and intercultural dialogue are important tools to fight discrimination and stigma. Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood. “Persons with albinism face ostracism, abuse, decreased employment opportunities, family breakups and in some cases they are victims of hatred killings”, said Farai Maunganidze, Zimbabwe Albino Association.  There is need to raise awareness in schools about the conditions of people with albinism and promote inclusive education. “We have to educate the teachers and parents”, explained Mr. Maunganidze. There is also need to promote inclusive education and people with albinism’ rights, access to services, participation and overall inclusion in society. 


In Tanzania, for instance, which has one of the highest number of people living with albinism, Dr Abdallah Possi was appointed to the position of Deputy State Minister in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and people living with disabilities. This is an important step towards fighting stigma. “Most people do not understand that albinism is a part of human diversity. We need to change our attitudes and create an environment for people of all races can enjoy their freedom”, said Minister Possi (Le Monde 2 June 2016).


According to the United Nations, “In some communities, erroneous beliefs and myths, heavily influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk. These beliefs and myths are centuries old and are present in cultural attitudes and practices around the world”. For these reasons, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 13 June as International Albinism Awareness Day. On 26 March 2015, the Human Rights Council created the mandate of Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.


To commemorate the international Day, UNESCO organized an event entitled Living with Albinism, in Paris, on 13 June 2016, to draw attention to this hereditary genetic characteristic which all too often gives rise to unjustifiable discrimination. The event featured speakers about the topics of medicine’s approach to albinism and brought together physicians, dermatologists and geneticists.


UNESCO’ Regional Office for Southern Africa has recently established the Social and Human Sciences Programme that aims to develop and promote social policies which uphold peace, human rights, democratic governance and tolerance. In Southern Africa, the Social and Human Sciences Sector will focus on areas such as promoting youth development and civic engagement, inclusive social development and intercultural dialogue for peace and social transformations. The Sector will support activities such as inclusive urban environments, citizen participation and intercultural dialogue, sustainability science, and enhancing social science research on social transformations and strengthening national social science policy and international scientific cooperation.


For more information about UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector in Southern Africa, please contact Mr. Charaf Ahmimed at c.ahmimed@unesco.org

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