Inspired by the African Union Plan of Action on albinism, a continent-wide strategy to address attacks and discrimination, the Africa Albinism Network convened a Learning Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from February 7 to 9, 2023. Over 70 participants including 36 albinism groups from across 13 African countries gathered to learn, share and to strategize on how to promote the rights of persons with albinism using the African Union Plan of Action on Albinism as well as updated resource mobilization strategies. The learning forum was jam packed with networking and exchange opportunities as well as a full program of learning such as an extended workshop on developing concept notes as the first critical step to writing proposals to funding partners.
Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, the lead strategist and technical adviser to the Network, kicked off the forum with a powerful statement that left no room for complacency
“Our battle for full inclusion is still far away. This is not a forum to come and warm your seats and take selfies. You were selected to make a difference, take responsibility and go back home to transform your community with what you will learn from these exchanges and networks.”
Ms. Ero stressed the need for more to be done to promote the rights of persons with albinism and reiterated the goals of the Africa Albinism Network to promote the African Union Plan of Action on Albinism.
The forum also featured a line-up of renowned speakers and dignitaries from government, and intergovernmental Organisations such as AU and UN, including Yohana Ng’wandu, Executive Director of Karagwe Community Based Rehabilitation Program (KCBRP), who are local partners of the AAN, Rasheed Maftah, Disability Unit Director, Prime Minister’s Office – Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disability (Tanzania), Lefhoko Kesamang from the African Union Commission, Muluka-Anne Miti-Drumond, the UN Independent Expert on albinism, Zlatan Milisic, the UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania, and Isaac Mwaura, former and first Member of Parliament and Senator with albinism of the Republic of Kenya. All these partners alluded to, in one way or another, the need for a multi-sectoral approach to ending the human rights violation facing persons with albinism. Fortunately, the AU Plan of Action is based precisely on such a framework.
The event was an opportunity for participants to share their personal stories and experiences, highlighting their best practices, innovations in advocacy, and their resilience, determination and strategies for overcoming in the face of adversity in their work to promote the rights of people with albinism. ANAT, the albinism group from Togo, shared how they achieved a national action plan on albinism with little to no government support and which is already being implemented, albeit slower than they would have liked. This experience inspired several participants who have since set out to emulate the Togo strategy of achieving a plan without official government support. Participants also learned deep lessons from Kenya’s annual budget on albinism and how this has been provided for over a decade. Isaac Mwaura attributed this to an unrelenting fight for recognition and self-advocacy. He underscored the importance of powerful narratives in advocacy which must be frequently renewed to avoid desensitizing the public.
Watch the highlights of the forum below
One of the highlights during the closure of the forum was the recognition of Mr. Moussa Djaffar Elkadhum, who received an honorary award for his outstanding service in promoting the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism in Africa.
After deeply intense, intellectual, wise panels, and workshops including breakout sessions to encourage by-country group work that could be harnessed once back home, each participant received a certificate acknowledging their learning in both human rights advocacy and resource mobilization.
Comments to AAN after the forum showed that participants were exhilarated and refuelled with renewed skills and vigour to go home and pursue the implementation of the AU Plan of Action through the adoption of National Action Plans on Albinism. We received comments such as “I have learned from Togo and plan to do the same.” Another participant insisted that “Honorable Mwaura must come to my country to wake us up.” Days later, one participant from Mali was invited to a forum in Ethiopia on gender-based violence where she took the floor to push for the adoption of the AU Plan of Action.
The learning forum was organized by the Africa Albinism Network in partnership with KCBRP of Tanzania, and with support from the Under the Same Sun, Voice Global, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, and Ford Foundation. The AAN is grateful to the government of Tanzania for its presence and support.