In many African societies, people living with albinism struggle to find social acceptance. In environments pervaded with albino phobia, stigma and negative stereotypes, it is a tall order.
There are people living with the condition however who are intent on shedding the negative stereotypes associated with albinos. One of those people is Gerald Byamukama; a 15 year old from Rubirizi district in western Uganda.
Many people ill advisedly regard albinism as a handicap, but I prefer to look at it differently, Byamukama says.
“Albinism is not a handicap in any kind of way. The only handicap I see is placing limits on myself because of people’s illusions about my condition. As long as my attitude is right, I know I can bring a value to my life. Albinism is not by choice and it should not be a basis for anyone to judge me or to hold me in a low regard. There are many great albino people out there making a difference in their societies and I intend to do the same,” a buoyant Byamukama says. “The difference in my skin appearance does not make me any less human as some people would want to make it seem. Albinos have rights just like normal skinned people and nobody should infringe on them. Nobody will make me hate myself. I will also not let people patronize me under the guise of trying to be friends,” he says. There have been moments however, when Byamukama has been inundated by some people’s indifference. “On several occasions, I have faced discrimination and disdain. People have called me ridiculing names. Some have even gone to the extent of calling my condition a punishment from the gods. It got to a point when I started hiding in the house, almost the whole day. I can only wonder how life is for that beat down, often stigmatized and socially withdrawn albino child or adult who lives in an environment where traditional myths and superstitions about albinism abound. There is need to promote greater awareness of albinism throughout the country,” Byamukama says.