Let's bring Persons with Albinism to the table for long term sustainable solutions to Disability challenges.

In 2013, a directive came from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to maize millers to have their products fortified with some minerals to counter spreading cases of malnutrition across the country. It was argued that since ugali was the most available food to the majority of the households in Kenya, fortifying the maize flour would have a positive nutritional impact on a large group of people at once. The only challenge the country is facing now is food shortage due to erratic climatic patterns in the country and a high rate of post-harvest losses.  TheThe conversations around agriculture and food security is political fodder for both sides because we are in the "silly" season.

In 2014, following a story by Citizen TV on the challenges girls from marginalized areas faced due to lack of sanitary pads, President Kenyatta signed into law the Basic Education Act of 2014 that mandated the Ministry of Education to avail the sanitary pads to all public schools in Kenya. Corporates too have joined the fray with girls only CSR initiatives that apart from giving mentorship to girls as a form of empowerment, they also donate sanitary pads.

 

On a different platform, I discussed the shift in attention by international Beauty care companies in Africa. In addition to having disposable income due to growing economies in the continent and a more modernized youthful population, Black activism seems to be taking root as well. So, these companies want to be accommodative and to evolve with the times whilst countering competition. Unlike  in the 60s and 70s, the African market has numerous options so Europe and America cannot play handball.

The result of this brand war has been a plethora of alternatives for the consumer and more friendly terms of engagement. Beauty companies have products for the Black market and what was being castigated is now being celebrated. Other fast moving consumer goods companies, (FMCGs), are yet to stop the occasional advertising of products for Black people, only on special Black themed days, instead of incorporating them into the organizational ecosystem in terms of employees and suppliers. With the rise of Black only enterprises, it is only a matter of time before they toe the line, lest they will lose a considerable size of the market. 

 

Aside from the cultural barriers and other challenges brought about by their condition, persons with albinism have to contend with the high cost of sunscreen facilities, just like other persons with disabilities have to put up with the high cost of mobility devices or the slow timelines that are involved for one to get a wheelchair without paying a dime. Even though major corporations manufacture sunscreen facilities, the product is elusive in terms of price but the saving grace is that its distribution is limited to public hospitals to prevent resellers from taking advantage of the need for the product by those it is intended to serve. 

 

The Kenyan beauty and cosmetic industry has been under the radar of the tax authorities with more taxes being proposed every budget year for the industry that is estimated to be  valued at Ksh 100 billion. The taxation, in my opinion, would be helpful as it would provide resources to the government to finance a subsidy for the sunscreen facilities to drive the product to a cheaper price of about Ksh 200 or Ksh 500 at most. It is the subsidies from the government that saw the cost of pads become sustainably affordable at Ksh 100. Even further, there was once a proposal to use the tax levied on breweries to build rehab  centers for alcohol addicts. So, it’s very much possible to have cosmetic tax proceeds used as subsidies to lower the cost of sunscreen for persons with albinism.

Persons with albinism could also work in the beauty conglomerates in the country to boost their positive exposure to the society and spread awareness about albinism and disability in general. The modeling industry has evolved to be more than the tall and slender models, to plus size ladies and even Miss Wheelchair Global Event. This understanding could help change the mindset of the society in more indirect ways rather than the combative route of disability activism, which leads to the activists being ignored and no action taken to address their pleas. With the soft and non-confrontational approach, there is a collaborative approach to the issue at hand and everyone’s contribution to the challenge is appreciated. With the beauty companies sponsoring disability centered beauty shows as ESGs, there will be a sustained effort to do away with negative beliefs around albinism and disability in general.

Animators have started portraying disabilities as super powers   in anime and cartoons. The result is that children, who are the target audience of these shows , have started seeing disability as a strength in a person’s life and not as an object of pity. As more and more awareness spreads in the society, a conversation is started and maintained on how to improve the welfare of persons with disabilities in all matters, including but limited to, political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal spheres of life. 

 

Happy International Albinism Awareness month!

 

BY :

Muriithi Ndiritu