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A young Albino girl holds hands with a friend at school in Malawi.
Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Citizenship

6 Malawi People With Albinism Are Running for Office to Fight Stigma

People with albinism are combating stigma in Malawi by having members of their community run for office.

Six people with albinism — an inherited condition characterized by a lack of pigmentation, resulting in pale skin, hair, and eyes — plan to run in the next presidential and parliamentary elections in the African country, considered one of the most dangerous places for those with albinism in the world, reported the Guardian.

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“We want to show the public that we are more than our skin,” said Overstone Kondowe, director of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, in an interview with the Guardian.

In the past four years, 22 murders of people with albinism have been recorded in Malawi, with dozens more reported missing, according to the report. Witch doctors in African nations, including Tanzania and Burundi, target those born with albinism so that their body parts can be used in magic potions and rituals, according to the BBC.

Between 2000 and 2013, the UN stated it received 200 reports of attacks on people with albinism across 15 African countries.

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“We need political commitment in fighting this,” said Elizabeth Machinjiri, director of a local charity, Disability Rights Movement, who is planning to run for parliament in Blantyre. “People should know that I am standing for a reason. I won’t hide evil since I am a courageous person.”

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But some in the country feel only harsh penalties, not politics, will deter criminals from abducting and killing people with albinism.

Earlier this year, President Peter Mutharika said Malawi should have an “honest debate” on whether to apply the death sentence to those found guilty of murdering others with the condition, reported Reuters.

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In response, Timothy Mtambo, who heads the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, stated he felt resources would be better devoted to “buying sturdy locks for poor families at risk of attack, and for public education to eradicate superstitions,” reported Reuters.

Roughly 1 in 20,000 people worldwide have albinism, with higher rates in sub-Saharan Africa, noted the report.

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