HIJRA ensuring safety of refugees living with Albinism in Ugandaadmin
Seated outside his house as he unfolds the sleeves on his shirt, Gideon Bonkisi (not real name) is watched intently by his children as he raises each arm. He reaches down to pick up the youngest and settles him on his lap as he begins to narrate his traumatic tale of raising children who are different.
Bonkisi, 45, his wife and children are among the hundreds of families that flee from their home country of Democratic Republic of Congo due to the horrendous crimes towards albino children in their communities. Even after seeking asylum in church, they still weren’t protected enough from the attackers and it was then that Bonkisi knew he had to permanently leave his home and move to Uganda.
“The rejection from my own family still haunts me till this day,” narrates Bonkisi. “When my wife and I produced our first albino child, they accused my wife of adultery and completely disowned them. The situation worsened when we had two more children being the same. I was banished from the family home and I relocated to a nearby town.”
“Even after we changed town in DRC, we were constantly attacked by people because of our children. I knew I had to leave when some members of my family advised me to sell off the albino children and get money. To them, I was seated on a gold mine but letting it go to waste.”
In Uganda, while fleeing from the attacks on his albino children, he sought refuge in Nakivale Settlement where he now depends on laying bricks to provide for his family and the wife bringing in extra credit with her tailoring business. Life is still not perfect as the children still face some segregation in school and the community keeps asking him ignorant questions.
In order to improve conditions for such vulnerable families, HIJRA Uganda under the child protection sub – sector carries out sensitizations and awareness campaigns in communities as a way of advocating for the rights and safety of Albinos.
“We strive to make sure everyone in the community knows that albinos despite being different are humans like every other member of society,” says Jackie Nyakaisiki, Child Protection Officer. “If the community is included more in activities that involve albino awareness, there will be less prejudice and discrimination against them thus their safety guaranteed.”
As HIJRA continues to fight Albino stigma in Nakivale, it is in the meantime providing protective gear like sunhats, sun glasses and shea butter to the families with vulnerable children to help them guard against skin conditions associated with Albinism.