At crossroads: My skin colour

SHARE   |   Monday, 24 April 2017   |   By Lisa Bokani Motsu

My lips carry words; my tongue holds an unspoken speech. They meditate non-stop. They surround my brain and they can never be seen. The hidden words are reflected on a piece of a dark paper. If one has a lamp then focuses its bulb to my speech. A bruised soul is on the table but it can never be served. Tears drop to the ground; eyes have become swollen from the weeping. The colour of the eyeball can never be compared nor come close to as an ox thick red blood. The heart is ripped into pieces, it bleeds heavily with pain and it oozes like pus from a badly sore. To come out in the open space is not an alternative; hence the road to return to stability can never be traced. Probably, many have decided to write down about common challenges of teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, education, politics, poverty, unemployment, and the list goes on and on. Well, I have taken a different path of addressing a major challenge of those living with albinism. A challenge which has been hid behind the curtains for so long! The question that may arise in an individual’s mind is, ‘what is albinism?’ Well, allow me to unfold the chapter. Albinism is a genetic condition which is also called ‘archromia’. It is characterised by a deficit in the production of melanin and complete absence of pigment in hair, skin and eyes.  If so, one may ask, how is it then a major challenge to Ms Motsu? Well here it goes. People living with albinism in my community do not only come across a problem of stigmatisation but they are faced with what I can define to say, ‘blocks of challenges’. People living with albinism are highly discriminated just because of their race which is really quite unfair. They are not fully given the freedom to do everything they want because of the way some people are treating them. Some are bullied; cursed and associated with barbaric myths of how their bodies bring wealth hence they are killed due to this. Their rights are not respected yet they are entitled to each and every right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. It seems me to that, people living with albinism are not given the most recognition they deserve.

It haunts me because; I wonder what I would do, if I was to give birth to a baby who has an albinism condition, if at all my society cannot accept and tolerate such people. I even fear for my family members and some of my friends who have the albinism condition because at any time of the day, they may experience harassment which may bring their morale down as well as my own confidence, dignity, and positive self-esteem just because of unacceptable actions portrayed by heartless human beings. The truth is, most of us in our communities fail to accept and tolerate those living with albinism and it bothers me so much, to even ask myself that, ‘Are we living up to our vision pillars as a nation?’
A kind and a compassionate nation! According to my research, people living with albinism are at a high risk of becoming victims of skin cancer because of the delicate skin they have and one aspect I have also observed is the lack of a health policy which can be able to provide for their needs like free provision of skin products, as some of them may fail to buy these products which may help treat their skin condition. The skin products are quite expensive hence not all people can be able to afford the products. If their skins are not treated with the necessary products, they are then at a higher risk of being exposed and becoming victims of skin cancer. Although I have taken a bold action in the recent months to address this matter in my community through my speaking and written work on a local newspaper, I have come across negative and demoralising comments from people who fail to understand the significance of this matter. An
additional sub challenge to me because some people do not understand fully what I am talking about and do not pay attention to my words. This is just pure ignorance which people need to be woken up from. Moreover, in social institutions like schools, students living with albinism isolate themselves from other students because of the fear they have, such students do not perform to the best of their abilities in terms of their academics.  As a peer, I am worried because of their education which is going down the drain as a result of this. The question is – are we putting into practice what we preach as a nation of Botswana? I am talking about elements of Botho, tolerance, respect and unity. A potential solution that I want to put in place is for people to recognise those living with albinism. They have to learn and come to terms that, they are normal human beings just like everyone. People in my community should change the negative perception they have towards people living with albinism.

The government should also put a hand in this by establishing a health policy so that it can provide skin products like sunscreen free of charge across all areas in Botswana. In life there is a time for everything and now the perfect time has come to reckon and recognise those living with albinism. It does not matter whether I am young because with my greatest determination and being a well groomed Motswana lady in my beloved African country Botswana, Ms Motsu has a deep burning desire that surrounds her body, soul, mind and heart to take on this challenge which is right before her eyes. It does not have to start in the United States of America, the foundation of this dream and vision has to start with us Batswana. The element of acceptance and tolerance should definitely prevail in us Batswana towards those living with albinism. We should strive to create an environment where there is unity and the spirit of Botho among us which is going to develop to coming generations. It is not necessary to perpetrate the bullying, the cursing, and the discrimination of our beloved ones. I desire to contribute to my community positively by making a difference, leaving a footprint and inspiring people out there. I want to establish an albinism foundation which focuses on the needs and rights of those living with albinism. My plan is to have campaigns and look for potential sponsors in regards to this matter. If there was never change, then this young girl is here to leave a mark and certainly make a change. It starts today and now. Having people living with albinism as part of us in the community is one great aspect that I would highlight as one of the great gifts taking place because these are unique people and therefore we should take pride and embrace their differences. Building peace in the hearts and minds of many is one role I desire to play in my community because it will build love in us. Love softens the human hearts, leads to forgiveness and fosters acceptance of diversity and respect for human rights. I am to bring change for my people. All human activity is prompted by human desire. The only cure for grief is action.
Lisa Bokani Motsu
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