In celebration of diversity and a commitment to inclusivity, the Africa Albinism Network (AAN) commemorated the 2023 National Albinism Day in Namibia, ordinarily celebrated on the 23rd of October each year, by co-organizing a Stakeholder Engagement and Learning Forum for Albinism Human Rights Defenders in Namibia from the 7th to 10th of November 2023 for about 23 albinism advocates in Namibia.
AAN partnered with UNESCO Windhoek, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare, Namibia Albinism Association Trust (NAAT), and Support in Namibia of Albinism Sufferers Requiring Assistance (SINASRA).
Through the four-day event, AAN took proactive steps towards setting Namibia on track to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) for persons with albinism. It is worthy of note here that these steps did not begin at this Forum; they were initiated after the release of the 2022 Report on the Public Hearings on Discrimination and Other Challenges Faced by Persons with Albinism in Namibia. The Report indicated that people with albinism in Namibia encounter various challenges, including stigma, discrimination, limited access to adequate healthcare and education, as well as issues such as restricted employment opportunities, abuse, and abandonment of women and children impacted by albinism. This situation is especially exacerbated in rural areas where access to services is limited.
“The Angola story became a catalyst, inspiring determination among participants to forge a future of equality and justice.”
Day 1: Pre-Forum Engagements
In the company of Hon. Isaac Mwaura, the Namibia Ombudsman, UNESCO Windhoek, and other Human Rights Defenders, AAN visited the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs, Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube, and the school for visually impaired learners in Windhoek. These visits emphasized the urgent need for a customized National Action Plan (NAP) to directly address the issues highlighted in the Ombudsman Report. Through shared insights and collaborative efforts, the delegation aimed to pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive environment for people with albinism, echoing a commitment to human rights and equality.
Days 2 to 4: The Training Forum
In anticipation and collective excitement, the Forum was officially declared open on the 8th by the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs. This was followed by other remarks from Mr. Kwame Andrews Daklo of AAN, Mr. Bonface Massah from Malawi, and Hon. Isaac Mwaura from Kenya who gave an inspiring opening remark. Hon. Isaac Mwaura underscored the importance of self-representation, urging the albinism community to assert their rights and emphasizing that it is not a matter of seeking favors from the government. He proposed that the Ombudsman’s Report on the public hearing be submitted as a white paper to Parliament, recommending inclusive revisions to existing laws.
The Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs promised to support the development of a NAP and in reply, the Ombudsman offered to assist in the process. The Deputy Minister also invited the leaders of NAAT, SINASRA, Mr. Bonface Massah, and Hon. Isaac Mwaura to Parliament. The purpose was to raise awareness about the ongoing Forum in preparation for Namibia’s NAP.
The opening was followed by human rights training sessions for the albinism organizations and other disability organizations present.
“Hon. Isaac Mwaura underscored the importance of self-representation, urging the albinism community to assert their rights, emphasizing that it is not a matter of seeking favors from the Government.”
On the third day, AAN gave a presentation on the AU Plan of Action (AU PoA: Official version here. Factsheet in English, French, Portuguese). Attendees were trained using the example of Angola’s NAP adoption. The Angola story became a catalyst, inspiring determination among participants to forge a future of equality and justice. The participants agreed on eight thematic areas to be included in their preliminary NAP draft and the priority actions required for each thematic area, identifying the entities responsible for involvement.
Parliament Visit with Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs
From left to right, Mr. Werner Kambabi, Ms. Roseline Joseph, Mr. Bonface Massah, Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube (in front), Mr. Kauruumbua Koujo (behind), Hon. Isaac Mwaura, Ms. Cesilia Paulus, Mr. Joseph Ndinomupya
The last day was dedicated to engaging with the participants to delve into the challenges albinism organizations face; and to explore avenues for improving coordination and alignment as they initiate the development of Namibia’s NAP.
This session involved a comprehensive examination of the leadership structures of NAAT and SINASRA, assessing the potential benefits and risks associated with their organizational frameworks and operational methods. The leadership training session, led by consultants Mr. Tjiueza Tjombumbi and Mr. Bonface Massah, was instrumental in providing insights and a way forward.
Furthermore, there was unanimous agreement among participants to develop an expanded albinism committee to develop their NAP. They agreed to incorporate a more diverse range of voices and advice, including input from the National Planning Commission.
We look forward to Namibia’s NAP in the very near future.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed to this week-long National Albinism Day celebration and activities. We especially thank Djaffar Moussa Elkadhum who helped to plant the seeds for these activities. We also thank our external consultants, Hon. Isaac Mwaura from Kenya and Mr. Bonface Massah from Malawi. We thank organizations like the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare, the National Disability Council of Namibia, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Namibia Albinism Association Trust (NAAT), Support in Namibia of Albinism Sufferers (SINASRA), and UNESCO Windhoek. We look forward to more advancements toward the NAP and ultimately to the enjoyment of human rights by all people with albinism in Namibia.
Pictured above: The Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs, Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube (front and center) to her left, Hon. Isaac Mwaura, Kenya Government Spokesman and Chairman of Albinism Society of Kenya, and leaders of NAAT and SINASRA. Also in the photo: personnel from UNESCO Windhoek and AAN. (Photo by UNESCO Windhoek)