Aminata Traoré leads the Malian Association for the Protection of People with Albinism (AMPA) as President since 2015 where she is also a project manager. Aminata is a woman with albinism and is committed to working to improve the living conditions of people with albinism and women in vulnerable situations. Her daily challenge is to identify and implement new communication and awareness raising practices to change attitudes towards albinism,
“We hope to one day no longer see our fellow human beings spit on us when we pass by for fear of dying or having children with albinism like us; and also to no longer have to put up with those men who think that having an intimate relationship with a person with albinism brings you good fortune.”
Aminata is particularly proud to see the girls with albinism who are members of the association denounce the cases of injustice to which they are subjected to using spoken word poetry. For her, her role as an advocate for the rights of people with albinism and women in general is seen as brave, and rightfully so.
Africa Albinism Network : This month is International Women’s Rights Month. What is it like to be a woman leader in the albinism movement?
Aminata Traoré :Being a woman leader in the albinism movement means being brave, being determined, and being resilient when faced with any type of situation. I remember when I started, I received all kinds of insults because I’m from a country [Mali] where there are several associations and at the beginning, I wanted to make the difference with the association especially for women, because it was already set up, and we the founding members had already encountered many difficulties. So, I really wanted to set the stage so that the voices of women with albinism would be heard. At first, they called me a thief, they accused me of stealing their ideas.
I’ve been through a lot, but I told myself that one day I will be heard. When I come, women with albinism will be able to speak out against everything they encounter. So, in one word, it’s being brave and it’s being resilient in the face of everything and also working with conviction based on the experiences you’ve had, because you’re talking about yourself, so it’s very easy.
AAN : Could you tell us how you started working on this issue? What’s your background story?
AT: I escaped three kidnapping attempts. I have experienced so much discrimination in my life, in my youth, like sexual harassment. One day, I decided it was time for all of this to stop.
If I was lucky enough to be able to study, why stay in the shadows? If I have the courage to speak out, why not join with others so that we can talk about albinism, so that one day, these kinds of actions can stop?
I really suffered. I was born in another country different from my country of origin. I was raised by beautiful people who supported me so much, but school was difficult. I moved to Mali when the country was in crisis. When I landed here, it wasn’t easy at all. The sun, people’s negative stares, and the discriminatory comments. Also, it wasn’t easy with my parents either. I really tried my best. I told myself that school would help me. My mother advised me to study, because according to her, only studying could help me get by. So, I studied until I got a master’s degree in management. After that, I devoted myself to the workforce. I did a lot of job searches, but it didn’t work out. I had to give up all the jobs I got because all the bosses wanted to get intimate with me. I was forced to give up, but I dedicated myself to the association. You see, it wasn’t easy at all.
AAN : Does Mali have a National Action Plan on Albinism and what is its status?
AT :Mali doesn’t have a national action plan for Albinism, but with our organization AMPA, we have developed a strategic plan for the association. We developed a policy that we would like to propose to the government, a national policy that takes into account the specific needs of people with albinism. We have done this, but now we would like to review it with the other organizations so that it can include recommendations from other organizations.
AAN : Do you have any advice for young PWA women and any advice for policy makers to advance the enjoyment of human rights by PWA?
AT : I advise young women with albinism to have confidence in themselves, to stop hiding the discriminations they suffer, and to speak up to free themselves. I also advise young women to study, get degrees and accept and to do internships to get experience and work for associations to be able to gain more practical experience. Also, to fight for the cause and their peers. Not everyone can do it, but when you work for associations, you can acquire other skills that can help you to grow in life. To our decision makers, I wish that they could continue to work for justice for PWA victims and also that our specific needs are taken into account in the current reform policies in Mali.
AAN : What is your dream/wish for women with albinism?
AT : My dream for women with albinism around the world is really that they can have access to healthy and quality education. Because what I encounter on a daily basis is deplorable.
I would like women with albinism to have access to positions of responsibility, to have a dignified life, to come out of the shadows. That they be recognized and that they be able to work for the future and for the cause of all other women in Mali. My dream is that there will be no more murders of people with albinism in Mali and that we will take part in all the decision-making spheres in Mali.