June 26, 2024

Breaking New Ground: Leadership Development for Women with Albinism in Africa

Women Impacted by Albinism

Capacity Development

From May 28th to 30th, 2024, 28 women impacted by albinism from 17 African countries and albinism groups convened in Nairobi, Kenya, for the Africa Albinism Network’s (AAN) inaugural Women’s Learning Forum.

The objective of the forum was to address some of the most pressing issues faced by women and children impacted by albinism. Traditionally, men have occupied leadership positions within the albinism community and civil society, leaving little space for developing of women’s voices and leadership. A recent survey by the AAN in 2022 and 2023 indicated that only 30 percent of albinism leaders are women, and only 16 percent of albinism groups prioritize the issues of women impacted by albinism.

One such issue is their vulnerability to violence and abuse, driven by harmful myths. In certain patriarchal societies across Africa, there’s a dangerous belief that intercourse with women with albinism can cure HIV/AIDS. This toxic myth places them at an even greater risk of gender-based violence from both intimate partners and the broader community. The Forum aimed to inspire and equip women with the skills and confidence to continue in their leadership roles and advocate for their rights and needs.

WLF participants during a mentoring session

The Swahili saying “Umoja ni nguvu”, which means Unity is strength perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Forum because never in the history of Africa have so many women impacted by albinism gathered in one space to network, learn, and share their experiences with such passion and determination. The women are leaders and emerging leaders from all works of life. The majority are leading or holding leadership positions in albinism and disability groups. Others are government functionaries while still others are students and entrepreneurs. They ranged in age although the overwhelming majority were in their thirties or forties. The forum was conducted in English and French. 

A recent survey by the AAN in 2022 and 2023 indicated that only 30 percent of albinism leaders are women, and only 16 percent of albinism groups prioritize the issues of women impacted by albinism.

Excitement was high as official Forum activities began with the opening ceremony. Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, the United Nations Independent Expert on Albinism, set the tone for an immersive and holistic three-day experience with these words: Every single one of you here is a brand, and we want to empower you to be a bigger brand because you, a woman with albinism, are an inspiration to girls and boys with albinism.  The opening session was followed by a panel discussion as well as a plenary conversation on the qualities of a woman leader featuring leaders from the disability movement in general and the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) sector.

Group mentorship sessions formed the cornerstone of the Forum, and in these sessions, mentees gleaned from mentors insights honed through years of experience to support their work in communications, networking, fund development, selfcare and entrepreneurship. Also on the program, were plenary sessions dedicated to Empowerment Self-Defense — a vital skill in safeguarding personal safety and autonomy. Sessions promoting trauma-informed approaches provided a nurturing space for introspection and healing. These discussions explored the complexities of achieving psychological wellness as women impacted by albinism even while attaining leadership skills and influencing their work environments. Participants engaged in open dialogue, sharing experiences while forging pathways to resilience and self-advocacy.

“If we can get women impacted by albinism supported, impacted, and empowered we will move faster toward inclusion ~ Ikponwosa Ero, Executive Director, AAN

WLF Participants

The emotional resonance of the Forum reached its pinnacle in a poignant moment led by Mama Nomasonto Grace Mazibuko, who got all participants standing and singing in unison. This touching display of unity underscored the deep bonds forged and the shared commitment to fostering a supportive community for women with albinism across Africa.

AAN’s Women’s Learning Forum has set a precedent—a testament to the power of collective action and the unwavering spirit of women who refuse to be defined by their challenges. As these leaders step into the forefront of advocacy and leadership, their impact will resonate deep into their society as well as far beyond their nation’s borders, reshaping narratives and fostering inclusive societies where every voice is heard and valued.

  • Watch the video highlights of the Forum :
  • Read the final report of the Forum:

We especially thank the Ford Foundation, Under the Same Sun, and Wellspring Philanthropic Fund for their financial support. We would also like to thank our local host, Positive Exposure Kenya and Empower Limited, for their services.

AAN is a proud partner of the Mothering and Albinism Project which generates research to support advocacy and policy for women impacted by albinism in Africa. For more information, visit www.motheringandalbinism.com

Africa Albinism Network

Written By:

Africa Albinism Network (AAN)

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