Fiji television has recently released a film that discusses and raises awareness about albinism after several negotiations with the country’s largest television broadcaster.
Directed by Christine Nestel, “Coming Out of the Shadows – Albinism in Fiji” chronicles people with the rare, non-contagious condition which affects about one in 700 of the local indigenous population, one of the highest rates in the world. It prevents the body from producing a pigment called melanin which gives natural color to the eyes, skin and hair.
The direct cause of the condition is unknown but United Nations experts believe it is genetically inherited; if both parents carry a specific gene, there is a 25 percent chance of a child inheriting the condition in a pregnancy.
Children who are afflicted with the condition often fall behind in school due to problems with their eyesight. The condition in turn can drastically affect a person’s livelihood. For example, children receive poor grades through no fault of their own and are forced to work in jobs outside where their skin is vulnerable to the sun’s rays. In other parts of the world, individuals are often shunned and bullied for their differences.
A report from Amnesty International states that in Malawi, people with albinism, particularly women and children, are “targeted for their body parts by those who believe that they contain magical powers and bring good luck.” Of the 23 African regions where people with albinism are discriminated against, Malawi has seen a sharp rise in abuse since November 2014.
Amnesty believes the main solution to the stigmas surrounding albinism is for local governments to promote a learning environment to reduce bullying and abuse. Nestel’s film, having gained larger commercial recognition, can provide a boost to understanding the condition not only in Fiji but potentially on a worldwide scale.