International Albinism Awareness Day Celebration

Venue: Ratu Sukuna Park, Suva, Fiji

Date:  13 June 2018  

  

1.  INTRODUCTION

The Fiji Albinism Project was established in 2015 to promote positive attitudinal change of the general public on  health and social issues that negatively impact the lives of persons with albinism in Fiji.  FAP is supported by  St Vincent Trust Fund in Australia and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and is currently hosted by the Fiji Centre for Communicable Disease Control at Mataika House Princess Road Tamavua. Dr. Margot Whitfeld of St Vincent's Trust in Australia, Dr Mike Kama of the Ministry of Health in Fiji and Ms Barbara Farouk of the Fiji Society for the Blind were the three inspirational individuals that had utilized their time and resources for the establishment of this project.

  

2.  INTERNATIONAL ALBINISM AWANRENESS DAY CELEBRATION

A)  BACKGROUND

Globally, albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically. The physical appearance of persons with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalization and social exclusion. This leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.    

On 18 December 2014, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming, with effect from 2015, 13 June as International Albinism Awareness Day.  The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in 2013 calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism. 

  

Through FAP, Fiji is  the first and remains the only country in the Pacific that celebrates IAAD and for three years now FAP has been raising awareness on the issues and concerns of persons with albinism through organizing this annual celebration of International Albinism Awareness Day.

  

B)  2018  FIJI CELEBRATION

i. Goals and objectives

 In collaboration with the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Fiji Albinism Project organized the 2018 IAAD Fiji Celebration at the Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva, Fiji's main capital city.  With the theme; Shining our Light to the World, the aim of this year's celebration was to  raise awareness on the discrimination, isolation and stigmatization faced by persons with albinism in their own families and communities in their everyday life.  The main key objectives were to secure support from Government and International agencies to enhance issues concerning persons with albinism through the organizing of a public forum, media awareness campaign, health clinics and other activities that will help raise the self esteem of persons with albinism and promote their equal participation in their society. society.

  

ii.  Funding

Funding was provided by United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights for the Pacific.  Donations in kind was provided by the civil society organizations  such as the Fiji Cancer Society,  Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and Business Houses including Colgate Palmolive and Flour Mills of Fiji.

  

iii.  Participation

The IAAD Celebration saw  the participation of more than fifty persons with albinism and their families and friends including representatives from Government and Civil Society Organizations.

  

C)  CHIEF GUEST AND GUEST SPEAKERS

i)  The Fiji Albinism Project and persons with albinism were very honored to have the Attorney General of Fiji and Minister for Justice Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who graced the event with his presence and delivered a powerful address calling on all Fijians to stop discrimination against persons with albinism.  "The idea of this day is to create awareness and ensure that just because a person has albinism, it doesn’t mean we discriminate against them and we need to recognize that persons with albinism have specific requirements, they are vulnerable to the sun and with albinism, their  eyes are also affected .” The Honorable Attorney General further elaborated that; "We need to create the ability  for people to understand and humanize our fellow Fijian, to see persons with albinism  in our community as human beings" We need to give respect and dignity even though they may look differently from us."  The Honorable Attorney General acknowledge the support of the United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights that had enabled persons with albinism to participate fully at this celebration.

  

ii)  The contribution and participation of the Representative of the United Nations High Commission for  the Pacific was highly commendable.

  

iii)  The Voice of Persons with Albinism for this day was Ms Sabina Moce, a 16 year old young student of St Joseph's Secondary School who spoke highly about her talents and her achievements despite the struggles she encounters; her achievements was not tokenistic because of her albinism but because of her perseverance.  She informed the crowd that she is the same as anyone  else despite being a person with albinism.  "I may be different, but I am also the same, I am still Fijian, I am still a student and I am beautiful".  Her  powerful message to persons with albinism is that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to, "your albinism is a gift from God, acknowledge it and take good care of yourselves".

  

D)  ACITIVITIES

In close collaboration with the Twomey Dermatology Hospital, Pacific Eye Institute, Oncology Unit of  the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Ministry of Health, Department of Social Welfare, the Fiji Military Forces, Fiji Police Force and partner civil society organizations such as Reproductive Family Health Association of Fiji and Fiji Cancer Society activities were organized for persons with albinism. 

  

 These activities included eye screening enlisting, skin clinics and women's health checks.  Entertainment was provided by the Fiji Police Band featuring students from Fiji School for the Blind and other persons  with albinism.

  

The Ministry of Education endorsed the release of all students with albinism from schools within the Suva - Nausori Corridor to participate in the celebration.  Transportation of these students from their respective schools was provided for by the Spinal Injury Association of Fiji

  

The Department of Social Welfare provided information and support in signing up of persons with albinism for benefit schemes and disability pensions.

  

The Fiji Military Forces provided a team of Physical Training Instructors to facilitate games for children and this activity was enjoyed by many children with albinism and their peers.

  

MEDIA AND PUBLICITY

Leading up to the IAAD celebration,  FAP and the UNOHCHR Pacific office issued a joint press release which was publicized by the FBC News which is a national broadcasting cooperation.  There were lots of media coverage on the IAAD by local media outlets The IAAD celebration was also uploaded on UTube by the Attorney General's Media Team;

  

Media sites which captured the IAAD celebration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geHRIQNEBKg

https://www.fijione.tv/news-posts/a-g-launches-international-albinism-awareness-day/

https://www.pressreader.com/fiji/fiji-sun/20180614/282016148035528

http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/64477/albinism-awareness-day-to-address-stigmatization

http://www.fijitimes.com/do-not-discriminate-against-albinism/

  

IEC materials which included: posters, newsletters and brochures on albinism were also distributed  To capture the attention of the public, a banner was designed and funded by the Oncology Unit of the Ministry of Health was hung at the podium of the park.

  

CONCLUSION

Fiji Albinism Project has for the past three years championing issues of person with albinism in Fiji which was made possible through the funding support of Dr. Margot of St Vincent's Hospital and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.  Persons with albinism have persevered and continue to struggle to level the playing field with persons without albinism.  International campaign such as the International Albinism Awareness Day has contributed to improving public knowledge on needs, concerns and aspiration of persons with albinism.  The visit of the Special Rapporteur on Albinism in December 2017 has enhanced the development of albinism at national level including bringing to Government's attention the marginalization and discrimination faced by persons with albinism and solutions such as development of inclusive strategies and establishment of central database.  The support of the United Nations Office for Human for the Pacific in funding the celebration has stressed that the dignity of  persons with albinism should be respected and persons with albinism have equal rights as anyone else.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

  

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