Societal ignorance about the condition, as well as long-standing beliefs associated with witchcraft, lead to the dehumanization of people with albinism. It is widely believed that the body parts of people with albinism, used by witch doctors in magical charms and potions, bring wealth, health and good luck. This leads to brutal attacks resulting in maiming, death and the black market trafficking of albino body parts.
Since 2006, more than 300 attacks have been recorded in 25 countries, and likely many more have gone unrecorded.
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Who we are
OUR SPEAKING, PRESS & ADVOCACY ENGAGEMENTS RELATING TO PWA IN AFRICA:
- On March 26, 2015, a fourth historic resolution on albinism was adopted, without a vote, by the UN Human Rights Council. This was due to UTSS’ advocacy and cooperation with various UN bodies including the Africa Group of countries and particularly the Ambassador of Sierra Leone, Yvette Stevens’, and her delegates. The resolution titled “Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights of persons with albinism” appoints an independent expert to investigate abuses suffered by persons with albinism worldwide.
United Nations General Assembly, New York City, New York, November, 2014
- On November 18, 2014, due to UTSS’ advocacy and cooperation with various UN bodies, (specific thanks to Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari of Somalia and members of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) a third historic resolution on albinism was adopted by vote by the UN General Assembly in New York. The resolution proclaims June 13 as International Albinism Awareness Day (effective 2015). We are grateful to the UN human rights council in Geneva which made a recommendation to the General Assembly (in June 2014) that the Day be proclaimed.
- The resolution instating international albinism awareness day, welcomes increased international attention, noting that, in many parts of the world, awareness of the human rights situation of persons with albinism remains limited. Further, it recognizes the importance of increasing awareness and understanding of albinism in order to fight against global discrimination and stigma against persons with albinism.
- June 13 was chosen as it was on that day in 2013 that the UN adopted its first ever resolution on albinism.
African Union's Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Banjul, The Gambia, November 2013
- On November 5, 2013, due to UTSS’ advocacy and cooperation with various African Union (AU) bodies, The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, passed Resolution 263: On the Prevention of Attacks and Discrimination Against Persons with Albinism. The resolution was the first of its kind on the continent and was very thorough in calling on member states of the AU to: protect PWA and their family members, avoid the impunity of perpetrators of attacks against PWA and consider responding to the disabling aspects of albinism.
United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland, September2013.
- On September 27, 2013, due to UTSS’ advocacy and cooperation with various UN bodies, a second resolution was passed by the UN Human Rights Council (The first resolution is described below). This second resolution, Resolution L36, titled, Technical Cooperation for the Prevention of Attacks against Persons with Albinism, requested that the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council take on the issue of albinism for further study and research. The report from the work of the Advisory Committee will be considered at the Human Rights Council’s 28th session in March 2015. UTSS will work hard to support and cooperate with the Advisory Committee in this regard.
- On September 26, 2013, the UTSS delegation led by Peter Ash meets with Ms. Flavia Pansieri - Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
- On September 24, 2013, for the third time, Peter Ash, Founder and CEO of UTSS spoke to the UN Human Rights Council. Peter called on the Council to deal with persons with albinism as a unique and specific people group due to the unusual trade in their body parts which occurs in a grisly manner, almost unheard of when compared with other people groups.
- On September 12, 2013, the preliminary report on albinism mandated by the first resolution was released by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. UTSS contributed to this report and was instrumental in encouraging participation from a broad section of civil society groups including but not limited to its partners across sub Saharan Africa.
- On September 16, 2013, Ms. Ikponwosa Lauretta Ero, UTSS’ international advocacy and legal officer of UTSS spoke to the Human Rights Council, in response to the preliminary report on albinism published by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. She also called for the appointment of an independent expert to deal with albinism due to the uniqueness of the condition.
United Nations Human Rights Council,Geneva, Switzerland, June, 2013.
- On June 10, 2013, due to UTSS’ advocacy and cooperation with various UN bodies, (specific thanks to Ambassador Yusuf of Somalia and members of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) a historic first resolution on albinism was adopted by consensus by the UN Human Rights Council. This was the first global response to albinism and therefore marked a historic event for persons with albinism worldwide. The resolution entitled, Attacks and Discrimination against Persons with Albinism, among other things, condemned impunity regarding injustices against PWA. It also called for a preliminary report on the issue. That preliminary report was published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 12, 2013.
- On June 6, 2013, the UTSS delegation led by Peter Ash meets with Ms. Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- On June 5 & 6, 2013,by invitation from the UN, Peter Ash addressed several groups of officials within the office of the High Commission of Human Rights. While there, he was also able to speak with many other senior officials on the matter of violence against PWA in Africa.
- On June 7, 2013,for the second time, Peter Ash was given 2 minutes to address the General Assembly of the UN Human Rights Council. Although the speech focused on albinism globally, it also referred to the atrocities taking place across Africa.
Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry, Pomona, California, April 16, 2013.
- Address the administration, faculty and students on the Crisis of Albinism in Africa and & the role of optometry in health, education and emergency care. Next to stigmatization & discrimination, the 2 greatest vulnerabilities faced by persons with albinism in Africa are low vision and skin cancer.
- The event was hosted by Dr Rebecca Kammer, a low vision specialist who continues to direct teams of medical expert volunteers to provide low vision care to persons with albinism in Tanzania.
University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, British Columbia, February 2, 2013.
- Presented with UTSS Advocacy Officer for French Africa, Amadou Diallo.
- The event was hosted by Ali Young and other students representing KULU, a fundraising initiative. Our purpose was to address the administration, faculty and students on the crisis faced by persons with albinism in the country of Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa.
Southern California College of Optometry, Fullerton, California, February 1, 2011 and September 15, 2011.
- Address the faculty and students on the Crisis of Albinism in Africa and & The Role of Optometry in Health, Education and Emergency Care. After discrimination, the 2 greatest vulnerabilities of persons with albinism in Africa are skin cancer and low vision.
- The event was hosted by Dr Rebecca Kammer, a low vision specialist who is directing a team of medical expert volunteers to provide Low Vision Care to persons with albinism in African countries recently traumatized by attacks and killings.
Harvard Foundation, Harvard University, Cambridge,Massachusetts, October 28, 2010.
- Presented on a panel with UTSS Tanzania Executive Director, Vicky Ntetema.
- Ms. Ntetema was previously the BBC Bureau Chief for Tanzania who broke the crisis of persons with albinism in Tanzania to the world in her July 2008 report.
Canadian Human Rights Committee (“HRC”), a committee from the Canadian Parliament inOttawa, Canada,October 26, 2010.
- Addressed the HRC in an attempt to get Canada to pass a bill addressing the violation of human rights against PWA in Tanzania.
The National Association of Albinism & Hypo-pigmentation (NOAH), Washington, DC, July 15, 2010.
- Addressed the bi-annual conference in an attempt to raise awareness of the crisis of fellow PWAs’ in Africa.
- The event was hosted by ABC’s 20/20, JuJu Chang.
- Also on the panel was Congressman Gerry Connelly of the State of Virginia to explain his part in getting house bill 1088 to pass in the U.S. senate. This bill decries the atrocities against persons with albinism in Tanzania, and takes to task the Tanzanian Government on this human rights issue (see “US House Resolution 1088”).
United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland, September 2009.
- On September 30, 2009 Peter Ash was given 2 minutes to address the General Assembly of the UN Human Rights Council specifically on this subject. Although the speech focused on Tanzania, it also referred to these same atrocities taking place across Africa.
- On September 24, 2009 Peter Ash addressed a group of UN officials in Geneva who were assigned to the continent of Africa. While there, he was able to speak with many other senior officials, including the High Commissioner, on the matter of violence against PWA in Africa.
UTSS has published a variety of documents:
- To view, go to the RESOURCES page of www.underthesamesun.com
UTSS played a leading role at the UN and the AU in helping to form and pass the first of its kind resolutions and reports on the prevention of attacks & discrimination against persons with albinism. To view, go to the RESOURCES page of www.underthesamesun.com
- UN Resolution 23/13 – In Geneva, Switzerland, June 20, 2013
- UN Preliminary Report – In Geneva, Switzerland, September 12, 2013
- UN Resolution L36 – In Geneva, Switzerland, September 24, 2013
- African Union Resolution 263 – In Banjul, The Gambia, November 5, 2013
Produced a feature length documentary:
- White and Black: Crimes of Colour
Numerous interviews with media groups including:
- ABC News, New York Times, BBC, CBC The National, CTV, Discovery Channel, The Globe and Mail, Reuters, UNTV, Dolce Vita Magazine, and many more.
Our amazing Tanzanian team makes up 2 well-staffed departments to help achieve its goals. The departments are:
1 - Our Education Program (EP - formerly ESF) is the UTSS flagship, offering comprehensive education funding to keen and dedicated students with albinism demonstrating a need for financial or other schooling assistance. Beneficiaries are exposed to a high quality, inclusive education experience in primary, secondary and all levels of higher learning up to graduate studies. Due to the multiple attacks against PWA in Tanzania, hundreds of children were herded into numerous government boarding schools throughout the country for “safe keeping”. The extreme overcrowding, poor living conditions and abuse in the government schools compelled UTSS to relocate hundreds of these “displaced children” into higher quality private boarding schools. The EP also covers personal expenses, school supplies and uniforms for all students along with any needed medical services including regular dermatology & optometry examinations. We also ensuring that they have protective gear including sun protective clothing, sunscreen lotion and low vision devices. These students will be future models within their own society of what PWA can be when given an opportunity. They are the strongest voice against discrimination and the most powerful message about the humanity, dignity and capability of PWA; educating and advocating their own culture towards change.
2 - Our Advocacy and Public Awareness (APA) program educates the public using all forms of media, both nationally and internationally, including at the African Union and at the UN where we are an accredited non-government organization. We constantly inform about albinism, disseminating information on health and offering genetic truths to diffuse existing myths about albinism that often lead to dehumanizing stigma and discrimination used by witchdoctors and their clients to justify the macabre killings of PWA. APA informs about human rights violations by investigating, collecting and publishing data about the atrocities against PWA. There is also a strong emphasis on the domestic understanding of albinism with simple, de-mythologizing messages about human dignity and respect, focusing on simple genetic & medical explanations, offering easy ways to live with and care for the condition. Additionally, our Tanzanian office frequently blitzes various parts of the country with Understanding Albinism (UA) seminars. These “in-person” encounters, where our PWA staff teaches their fellow citizens about albinism, helps humanize and normalize the issue. It is a highly interactive event with the audience where hearts and minds are enlightened and positive social change regularly occurs. We target both rural and urban centers including government agencies, hospitals, schools & universities, workplace environments, religious groups, police departments, village elders, family members, neighbours and friends.
Friends of UTSS
Dr. Rebecca Kammer
UTSS cannot put into words our gratitude for the gift that Dr. Kammer (Becky) has given to people with albinism in Tanzania. She has tirelessly offered Low Vision Clinics, met with every student in our Education Program and provided glasses and other low vision devices. This will profoundly change their educational experience, their lives and ultimately the discriminatory attitudes against albinism in Tanzanian culture.
Albinism Fellowship of Australia
The Albinism Fellowship of Australia (AFA) is a national, non-profit organization established in 2005. The fellowship is run by volunteers who all have been personally touched by albinism in some way.The AFA’s key purpose is to provide support, education and fellowship to those with albinism, parents of children with albinism as well as their families and friends. While the albinism community in Australia is only small, the AFA provides a united voice to encourage productive developments and support within business, government and media.
The Canadian High Commission in Tanzania
The Canadian High Commission in Dar es Salaam generously donated $20,000 to help launch the UTSS Radio Campaign Project.
Discover Albinism Uganda
Discover Albinism Uganda is a U.S. based nonprofit working with the Uganda Albino's Association to end descrimination agains persons with albinism.
Express Lens Lab
UTSS is eternally grateful to Brian Goldstone and his company, Express Lens Lab, for the generous supply of optical lenses to meet the low vision needs of persons with albinism in Tanzania. This will profoundly change the educational experience of the students with albinism in our Education Scholarship Fund program. As education changes their lives, the discriminatory attitudes of their fellow countrymen will be challenged, as will the role of persons with albinism in Tanzanian culture.