Education – The only way to tackle albino myths in Tanzania

Another month means another blog post from the COCO Chronicles! Everyone has been rather busy and hopefully you’ll have read the great stories from Harriet, our CEO Lucy Philipson and Brad who have been out in East Africa over the last few weeks!

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of media and press surrounding albinism in Tanzania. Those living with the genetic condition lack pigmentation in their skin, hair or eyes. Witchdoctors encourage the belief within East African communities that albino body parts bring good luck and wealth which has resulted in 74 reported cases of people with albinism being murdered since 2000 (1.) Their body parts are then sold for hundreds of dollars. As a result of the persecution, albinos in Tanzania live in constant fear, afraid of going out to work or being out at night. Fear is growing ahead of the elections due to take place in October as politicians look to witchdoctors for good luck.

Recently, the government and Tanzanian Albinism Society have reacted by banning witchdoctors. Whilst this is a positive move, the underlying issue of a lack of knowledge persists and the beliefs of albino body parts bringing good luck and fortune remain embedded in communities.

COCO has been working alongside The Hoja Project in southern Tanzania since 2005. One of the projects involved the start up of a creative performance group who perform various shows to educate communities on issues including HIV and AIDS, malaria, family planning and albinism. A study has just been conducted to measure the effectiveness of the group. The study found that members of the community feel they have learnt more about these issues as a result of the performances including new ways to deal with and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. The following charts show the before and after results of two, true or false questions surrounding HIV, albinism and malaria.

“Having sex with an albino can cure HIV”  True or False?

1 Feb Coco Chron

                                                  Before                               After

“Witchdoctors can cure malaria” True or False?

2 Feb Coco Chron

                                                Before                                   After

The results from the performance group at The Hoja Project highlights how fundamental community education is in challenging beliefs and changing attitudes. Whilst the ban on witchdoctors won’t stop the killing of Tanzania’s albinos, education will. For more information check out this amazing documentary from film makers, Gemma Caldwell and Kat Hodgkinson.

Vimeo Link Kat & gemma albinos

Oswin Mahundi, director and co-founder of the Hoja Project, will be climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in June 2015 in aid of COCO and The Hoja Project! You can donate and support Oswin here.

4 Feb Coco Chron

It was great to see that our corporate Kili climbers made the summit last week – we knew you could do it!

5 feb Coco chron

(1.) The Guardian – Tanzania bans witchdoctors in attempt to end albino killings

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