June 25th, 2018: Malawi has launched a new national action plan to protect and promote rights of persons with albinism. The plan, to be implemented from 2018 to 2022, was launched at a joint event on 23rd June 2018, in Karonga District to also commemorate the International Albinism Awareness Day, which falls on June 13th.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Dr. Jean Kalilani, said nobody in Malawi should face segregation or injustice because of their appearance, calling on all stakeholders to intensify the fight against violence against persons with albinism and promote their capabilities so that they equally participate in and benefit from the country’s development.
“We have to show the world that Malawi is a country where people with all types of disabilities and specifically those with albinism are respected and have equal opportunities in life,” she said, noting this would be in line with the 2018 theme for the day: Shining Our Light to the World.
On the new National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism in Malawi, Kalilani said the plan will guide comprehensive efforts to address challenges persons with albinism face in various areas such as education, health, empowerment, protection and human rights, calling for continued collaboration among stakeholders to ensure successful implementation of the plan.
Speaking on behalf of the UN, UN Women Representative, Clara Anyangwe, said attacks and killings of persons with albinism have particularly affected women and children with albinism as, she said, they are exposed to intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination.
“The UN has supported the Government in implementing the previous National Albinism Response Plan to prevent different forms of violence against persons with albinism,” said Anyangwe. “The UN is hopeful that the new plan will be implemented to accommodate all critical gaps and address the existing social and economic challenges frequently faced by persons with albinism.”
She said the new plan complements UN’s existing support on raising awareness, strengthening community-based protection systems, providing direct support to persons with albinism and strengthening the justice sector response, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) through the Human Rights Window of the One Fund of the UN in Malawi.
While noting that the rate of new attacks against persons with albinism has fallen since 2016 and that awareness on albinism has been strengthened, Anyangwe however expressed concern over delays in prosecution of many crimes against persons with albinism.
“It is concerning that there have been no convictions for murder of people with albinism until now. Out of 145 incidents of crimes against persons with albinism reported to the police since 2014, 45 have been completed, 47 cases are still under investigation, 21 cases are in courts, and the remainder of the cases are with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, were discontinued or closed,” said Anyangwe.
Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Dr. Esmie Kainja, said, so far, Malawi has adopted stiffer punishments for perpetrators of crimes against persons with albinism, established working relations with neighbouring countries to deal with cases involving people from neighbouring countries, and strengthened community policing structures to ensure persons with albinism are protected in their communities.
Principal Secretary for Ministry of Civic Education and Community Development, Ivy Luhanga, also said government is intensifying awareness on the protection of persons with albinism in local communities across the country.
Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) President Overton Kondowe said they were pleased that issues of rights of people with albinism have become part of Malawi’s national development agenda, but said more needs to be done to remove barriers limiting enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, including ending discrimination in access to socio-economic opportunities.
“Many people with albinism struggle with schooling and less than two percent of them reach the last class of secondary education. If not well education, it is difficult for people with albinism to actively take part in development. There is need for good policies to educate persons with albinism,” said Kondowe.
He also asked government to engage special investigators to assist with uncovering some drivers of attacks and killing of persons with albinism, such markets for parts of bodies of persons with albinism, which he said investigators have not yet managed to uncover to date.
Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga and Chitipa districts condemned all attacks and killings of persons with albinism and asked courts to mete out stiffer sentences to all perpetrators to deter would be offenders.
“People with albinism are normal people just like anybody else. They have the right to life, dignity, education and employment. I urge all my subjects to protect people with albinism. We also need to end this misguided belief that there is richness in body parts of people with albinism,” said the chief.
The commemoration also included a solidarity walk, viewing of pavilions by key stakeholders who showcased their contributions in protecting and promoting rights of persons with albinism, and performances such as traditional dances, poem and community theatre – all contributing to awareness raising and advocacy against attacks and killings of persons with albinism. An albinism theme song also spiced up the event with messages condemning attacks and killings of persons with albinism.
In 2014, the UN General Assembly set aside the International Albinism Awareness Day to call for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism. Erroneous beliefs and myths, heavily influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk.