Standing Voice has worked on Ukerewe Island for more than a decade. Perhaps more than anywhere else in Tanzania, or Africa, Ukerewe has been the target of sensationalist press around the issue of albinism in Africa: mystified by the media as a ‘sanctuary’ for people with albinism, a safe haven away from the discrimination of the mainland, where security can be found in numbers. The reality is that Ukerewe has a deep and long history of discrimination against its large population of people with albinism. People abused and abandoned by their families, locked out of employment, dying of skin cancer. Some forced to eat away from others, with separate bowls and utensils. To bridge this divide and build a platform for reintegration, Standing Voice established the Umoja Training Centre in 2016: a community training facility providing skills development and economic enrichment to people with albinism and their friends, families, and wider community members on Ukerewe; a second chance for so many who lost out on education in childhood. In 2017, Standing Voice launched the Summer Skills Workshop: an integrated training programme, based at the Umoja Training Centre, helping the community to develop skills and pursue income-generating opportunities and pathways of professional development. We brought together renowned artists, actors, researchers, broadcasters, photographers, tailors and musicians, and connected these professionals to people with albinism and their peers on Ukerewe. The event returned in 2018: bigger, bolder, more radical than ever. Serving a wide range of people with and without albinism, from across Ukerewe Island and mainland Mwanza, the Summer Skills Workshop provided training in eight key disciplines: tailoring; photography; radio production and broadcasting; batik; printmaking; arts and crafts; performance; and English language instruction.
Our aspiring photographers developed tangible transferrable skills while rediscovering their world through a lens. Our tailoring class became a platform not only to create, but also to claim agency. English classes sparked the onset of a long educational journey for so many people with albinism and their friends. Artists, both old and young, collaborated together to forge a space of healing. The Ukerewe Young Reporters found their voice by recording and broadcasting stories of their past. People with and without albinism reflected and reimagined their world through the ancient art of woodcut printing. The leaders of the batik workshop—trauma survivors and mothers of children with albinism themselves— sent a message far transcending the practice of wax-resist dyeing. And finally, our fearless performance students ignited a trail of positive engagement across the island of Ukerewe. Our workshops placed people with albinism at the centre of their own story: not diminishing struggles or ignoring trauma, but helping them to rewrite their histories from a place of community and humanity, moving beyond pity and fear into a space of dignity and hope. Our established groups are already flourishing and meet regularly at the centre to develop their craft. The Umoja Training Centre will continue to train thousands of people in the years ahead, arming this community with the skills and tools to determine their future.
Standing Voice is an INGO defending the rights of people with albinism in Africa. In Africa, people with albinism face discrimination and violence. Many are marginalised from services; hundreds have been murdered for their body parts. Working across Health, Education, Community and Advocacy, Standing Voice amplifies the voices of people with albinism so they can reclaim their place in society. Follow them @standingvoice on Facebook and Twitter.
Standing Voice Communications Manager, Sam Clarke, is responsible for elevating the public profile of Standing Voice and raising the support necessary to deliver its life-changing health, education, and community building initiatives on the ground in Tanzania. He has worked broadly in international advocacy around albinism in Africa, contributing expertise to academic publications and mainstream media reporting around this issue.