A new Independent Expert on Albinism nominated by the Human Rights Council

NEWS-. In August 2015, Mrs. Ikponwosa Ero from Nigeria was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the new independent expert on albinism to provide information and promote the rights of albino people.

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Mrs. Ikponwosa Ero reminisced about the time she found out that she had albinism when she was 5 years old in Nigeria. While her mother always accepted her difference, she admitted being seriously discriminated against by her classmates at school.However, Ero considered that having albinism was a positive challenge in her life since it showed “the power of having a loving and supportive family that helped her to succeed, despite derision outside the home.”

The human rights expert has spent the last seven years working specifically on issues regarding the human rights of people with albinism. She holds the position of international advocacy and legal officer for Under the Same Sun, an NGO focusing on the rights of those living with albinism. Besides, she published extensively on the issue, including a handbook on human rights for people with albinism, and a guide on albinism for teachers and educators working with those who have the condition.

Ero was appointed by the Human Rights Council and took up her post in August. The position of Independent Expert on Albinism was created by the Human Rights Council as a way to “focus attention and provide much needed information and discussion on the issue”. Her mandate consists of promoting good practices; engaging in dialogue with States and stakeholders regarding the issue; and gathering information on violation of the rights of those living with albinism.

People with albinism are widely discriminated against “being denied jobs or places at schools and also [suffering from] extreme violence and loss of life as there is a lucrative trade in body parts of persons with albinism in some countries for use in witchcraft.” The Special Rapporteur also mentioned a fear of public spaces because of public shaming. She acknowledged that her life improved greatly as an adult but that “ignorance about albinism is still very strong - which means ignorant questions and reactions remain.”

Her main goal as an Independent Expert will be to provide visibility and awareness around albinism. One way to achieve this goal is to “demystify the condition.” She insisted that “mystification of the condition has led to physical violence”. Reversing this process and prejudices around albinos will help ensure “the most fundamental rights to life and security of person, non-discrimination and equality”.

Encouraging initiatives

Patricia Willocq, a photographer who focused her work on Albinism in the Democratic Republic of Congo found out that albino children were lagging behind at school and were often perceived as unintelligent because of a lack of melanin which resulted in visual deficiency. Together with UNICEF, Lions Club and other educative supporters, she helped raise funds to collect adapted glasses for those children. Sunglasses were delivered in February 2014 during a celebration where the Malian singer Salif Keita (an albino himself) performed on stage. This event was highly mediatized and reported by the BBC ad TV5 International. Along with this performance, Willocq’s photographic exhibition in Kinshasa called “Blanc Ebène” helped albinism to gain recognition in Africa and around the World.

The 13 June 2015 was the first celebration of the International Albinism Awareness Day after a UN General Assembly vote established it in 2014. This was considered an international success for the advancement of albino people’s rights around the world. On this occasion, the Tanzanian President even committed to provide a better health assistance to albino citizens as those persons are more prone to suffer from skin cancer and eye disabilities. In spite of this remarkable progress, terrific figures reveal that 76 albinos have been killed since 2006 in Tanzania and that persecutions and discriminations still continue until today.

Sources:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “New Independent Expert on Albinism Takes Up Post.” Published on August 21st. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/IndependentExpertOnAlbinism.aspx#sthash.UPcqXZIb.dpuf

F, Descy. “Patricia Willocq, photographe sociale.” Site web L’avenir.net. Publié en ligne le 3 juin 2014. http://www.lavenir.net/cnt/dmf20140602_00485437

E, Costard. « La Tanzanie célèbre la première journée internationale de l’albinisme. » Le Monde. Publié en ligne le 15 juin 2016. http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2015/06/15/la-tanzanie-celebre-la-premiere-journee-internationale-de-l-albinisme_4654208_3212.html#z4x3XMRiWXOOX85g.99

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