Learning about albinism as a project intern

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Blogs, Intern's Blog | 0 comments

Learning about albinism as a project intern

When Lancaster University (which I had left just a few months ago at the end of my undergraduate degree), offered me the chance to work as an intern on this project, I gratefully accepted. In the week that followed, family and friends asked me what I knew about albinism in Africa, and I cheerfully replied “Nothing, really.” I had only ever met one person with albinism, and knew almost nothing about the condition beyond its visible signs. I certainly hadn’t ever thought about it in any African contexts. It seemed obvious that people in Africa with albinism might stand out in their communities…. but the extent of dangers posed by the sun, social discrimination, and the black market for body parts were all shocking to learn about.

I did briefly wonder why I hadn’t previously known anything about such a dramatic and important issue, but I realised that this is something that is usually covered only very briefly by foreign media- for a one-off surprise article, a shock story about the attacks that seem very far away and hard to really imagine. I think that the majority of people who don’t personally know someone with albinism have a similar lack of knowledge- being able to identify that someone has the condition, but lacking any understanding of how it might affect their life.

The responsibilities of my role are primarily finding suitable content for the website, and helping to organise the conference in Cameroon later this year. Working methodically through the research available, I’ve found that the majority of news articles portray the attacks as simply a brutal result of superstition- but more detailed analytical articles and projects, from a variety of sources, suggest that the full truth might be more complex.

It has been heartening to read about the courageous efforts made in the struggle to protect and promote the rights of people with albinism, by those with the condition and those in partnership with them. I feel very fortunate to be involved in this project and its gathering and sharing of knowledge, expertise, and personal experiences.

Thomas Bright

10th February 2015