By: Mpho Shelile

Maseru – The United Nations, for the first time in Lesotho, marks International Albinism Awareness Day with a celebratory documentary titled ‘Can You See Us?’ in their offices.

This documentary highlights the critical need for increased visibility and recognition of people with albinism, addressing the challenges they face and promoting their inclusion in all aspects of society.

International Albinism Awareness Day, observed annually on June 13, was established by the UN to raise awareness about the human rights issues faced by individuals with albinism. Albinism is a genetic condition resulting in a lack of melanin, which affects the color of the skin, hair, and eyes, often leading to visual impairments.

People with albinism are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. Unfortunately, in many regions—especially parts of Africa—they face severe discrimination, stigmatization, and even violent attacks fueled by superstitions and myths.

“Can You See Us” has received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling and its role in amplifying the voices of those with albinism.

The documentary is part of a broader campaign to combat the stigma and discrimination faced by people with albinism. This campaign includes educational programs, advocacy efforts, and community outreach initiatives aimed at promoting inclusion and understanding.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, the UN Resident Coordinator in Lesotho, emphasizes that this year’s celebration through the documentary “Can You See Us?” underscores the need for societal recognition and the inclusion of people with albinism.

“The film is a call to action, combating the invisibility and marginalization experienced by those with this condition. Importantly, the documentary emphasizes visibility not only in physical terms but also across social, economic, and political spheres.”

“I strongly believe that this calls for recognition of their presence and contributions, emphasizing the need for their inclusion in social, economic, and political life. This documentary seeks to address the issues of marginalization and lack of representation that many individuals with albinism experience,” she says.

The United Nations’ celebration of International Albinism Awareness Day is a significant step toward increasing the visibility and inclusion of people with albinism. By raising awareness and promoting actionable measures, Amanda states that the event fosters a more inclusive and equitable society where the rights and contributions of people with albinism are fully recognized and respected.

She emphasizes that International Albinism Awareness Day seeks to amplify the voices and visibility of persons with albinism in all areas of life. The meeting also highlights the achievements of people living with albinism and their human rights around the world.

She highlights the contrast, while Lesotho celebrates 200 years of freedom and peace, individuals living with albinism cannot make the same claim. She urges all Basotho to reflect on whether persons with albinism have truly experienced the same peace and prosperity.

Importantly, she emphasizes the need for inclusive programs that leave no one behind, especially in this year of accelerated human rights implementation.

In his remarks, Hon. Pitso Lesaoana, Lesotho’s Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture, and Social Development, emphasizes that the inclusion of persons with albinism can significantly contribute to ensuring they live a life free from fear and discrimination.

He further acknowledges that individuals with albinism face an uphill struggle to attain a life characterized by dignity, equality, and the fight against injustice and discrimination.

Today provides an opportunity to pause, reflect, and recognize that not all persons are treated equally. Many individuals with albinism continue to suffer human rights abuses and violations, often invisibly and in silence.

Albinism, a skin condition that affects people of various ages, genders, and ethnicities, remains seriously misunderstood. This lack of understanding contributes to stigmatization, discrimination, attacks, and even killings.

Tragically, these cases persist, particularly affecting vulnerable situations, including children.

Hon. Pitso’s words underscore the urgent need for awareness, education, and advocacy to create a more compassionate and inclusive society for all.

“Persons with albinism cannot be excluded or left behind when it comes to decisions affecting them. Therefore, human rights laws, policies, and dialogues must explicitly include issues related to albinism. More critically, these principles must translate into actionable steps and tangible results.”

“Mr. Motlatsi Mosaase, founder of the Albino Multi-purpose Association (A.M.A), a group that advocates for opportunities for albinos in all social, economic, and political, calls to action, urging stakeholders to, enhance education and awareness, implement educational programs to increase public understanding of albinism and dispel myths and stereotypes.

Mosaase adds that there should also be Strengthening of Legal Human Rights, inclusion and realisation of equal Protections when it comes to persons living with albinism.

“There should also be Improvement of healthcare Services and ensure access to specialized healthcare, including dermatological and ophthalmological care, to address the specific needs of people with albinism,” says Motlatsi.

He concludes by stating that there must be economic inclusion and creation of employment opportunities and, support for economic participation for people with albinism in order to enhance their quality of life and independence.