"In the street, when we pass, people spit"

Meeting of the Senegalese Albino Association in Pikine, on the outskirts of Dakar, in November 2008
(Helen Blakesley/IRIN )

In Senegal people with albinism are marginalised and find little support for coping with the daily challenges of their condition. IRIN spoke with four people with albinism in the capital Dakar.

Khadim Diouf, 20, unemployed

“I was the first albino in my village. I didn’t look like the other children. My mother was scared of me. She’d never seen it [albinism] before. She couldn’t bring herself to breastfeed me until I was one year old. My grandmother was brought in to see me to check things out. When she saw me she fainted.

"My village is a very hot place, the heat was very bad for my skin, so when I was five I was taken to a different village far from my home. I stopped [French] school and went to a koranic school in Touba until I was 12. In the evening I’d go out and beg, as a talibé.

"I wanted to be a driver, but I can’t get a driving licence because of my eye sight. My family is poor. I looked for work but couldn’t find any. I set up a business but it didn’t work.

"I accept myself [as an albino], I have no complex, it is the attitude of others that’s the problem. It makes conditions unbearable. Things cannot go on like this. We need help. We need someone to come and help us."

Alseny Sall, 22, street vendor

“The sun hurts my skin, I have cream but I don’t want to use it up too quickly because I can’t afford to replace it. It’s the sun that hurts us, all over our bodies. We have blotches. Some of us can go to the hospital for care, but some of us can’t afford it.

"I can’t see very far. At school I stayed close to the board. We have to wear sunglasses, the sun hurts our eyes.

"In the street, when we pass, people spit. On the bus, when we sit down, people move places. People shout insults like ‘mpouné’ [‘albino’ in Wolof] and run away.

"In my neighbourhood, there are people who don’t like us. If everyone’s sitting round eating [in the extended family] some people don’t want to sit next to me.

"With my job, it’s very difficult to sell, it doesn’t work, people don’t want to see us. They’re scared of us. We’re so tired of it. I want a better job. I’ve had interviews but people didn’t want me.

"[Being an albino] makes it harder to meet women. Once, I was walking in the street with my girlfriend. A guy said to her ‘Why are you with that albino?' It really hurt me.

"I hope to get married, but not just now. I’ll marry the person I love, whether she’s albino or not."

Abdoulaye Sow, 51, former sculptor

"By trade, I’m a sculptor, I used to make masks out of wood, but now I beg on the street. I don’t make enough money. I have a wife, child, two nephews and my mother to support.

"All there is for me at the moment is the street. The work I do hurts me. People are rude to me. They don’t understand why people beg, [they think] it’s not normal.

"Even within my family, some people lack respect towards me. I had to marry into a different family. My wife is albino like me."

Mama Diallo, 18 years old, college student

"At primary school I was insulted and hit. People spat at me. They’d say 'don’t go near that albino'. My mother said I should stop going to school but using my strength and my courage I’ve carried on.

"Teachers at my college have helped me. When I first started, I went to see the head teacher and said 'Look, this is what I look like. I just want to [come here to] study'.The head teacher has raised awareness of albinism with the other students. Everyone likes me now. I feel loved.

"I want to be a singer. I’m in a drama group called Espoir de la Banlieue.

"The sun burns my skin but I still go out. I don’t cover up that much…I still want to wear fashionable clothes.

"If I sit down in a bus, people get up and move. They reject us. It hurts but I handle it. I get on with it. God made me, so I can’t change it. I am who I am.

"If I go and visit friends, often their family doesn’t want to receive me. I don’t feel the hurt any more, it doesn’t touch me. If the albino girls I know are crying because someone has done or said something horrible, I tell them 'don’t even think about it'.

"My faith in God is so important. If no one loves me but God does, I’m ok. I have hope for the future. I’ll never give up."

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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