The United Nations’ first independent albinism expert, Ikponwosa Ero, has promised to use her legal expertise to end the vicious attacks of albinos by people seeking to use their body parts for rituals and witchcraft, according to Reuters. Albinism is a health problem associated with lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes.
Speaking at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday, Ikponwosa revealed that she was constantly abused as a child for having albinism.
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“I was wondering why was I born? How will I get to my adult years and survive this? I don’t think I can make it,” she revealed.
When she was five-years-old, Ero could not walk down the streets of Nigeria without being insulted or assaulted. In school, she was often beaten by her teachers who thought she was lying whenever she said she could not see the chalkboard.
To get through school, she was forced to ask other students to copy the exam questions down from the chalkboard for her in exchange for answers. Poor eyesight is a common problem for people with albinism.
Ero, who is a practicing attorney, became the UN’s first expert on albinism in 2015 and has prosmised to use her position to end the abuse of albinos in Africa.
Studies show that over 600 albinos in 26 African countries have been physically abused since 2007, with the majority of victims being children.
As part of her effort to end the attacks, Ero is creating an action plan that will leverage online fundraising to purchase iron bars and sturdy locks for the doors of impoverished rural homes.
“There is the witchcraft belief that if the attacks are happening to people while they are alive, then the potion is more powerful. They want the person to scream because it’s believed that the scream adds to the potency of the medicine,” Ero explained.
She also hopes to fight stigmas by educating people about albinism, especially fathers who walk out on their families when their partners give birth to children with the condition.
Ero says her own parents had a fight over who caused her to have the skin condition.
In many African societies, albinos are seen as a curse and most of them end up being killed or offered as a sacrifice by their own families.
Women with albinism are also subjected to sexual abuse, as some people believe sleeping with an albino helps cure sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
In countries like Tanzania and Malawi, witch doctors use albino body parts to bring about luck and wealth.