Sunday, October 17, 2021

People living with Albinism bring parliament to a standstill

Normal proceedings at the National Assembly came to an almost screeching halt on Friday 11 November at the mere presence of at least 50 members of the Albinism Society of Botswana (ASB).  The group, led by their Chairman and Marulamantsi Ward councillor, SergeantKgosietsile, had occupied the entire south wing of public gallery. Upon recognising the overwhelming presence of the group Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s Gabane-Mankgodi Member of Parliament Pius Mokgware sought the House to incorporate the needs of PWAs into the Friday discussions on employment and economic empowerment.

His move was met with objections from some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members in the house. Altercations between the two opposing sides and the Speaker Gladys Kokorwe resulted in Ghanzi North MP Noah Salakae and Jwaneng/Mabutsane’s Shawn Nthailebeing evicted from the House. The rest of UDC members followed suit, effectively collapsing the quorum and forcing the Speaker to adjourn.

ASB’s mass visit to the national assembly was the last item on the agenda following a three day workshop organised by ASB.  “The aim of the visit was to get our legislators to treat the situation of people with albinism here in Botswana with the seriousness and urgency it deserves,” Kgosietsile told The Telegraph. “We want the government to implement specific policies that will assist in enhancing the lives of people living with albinism.” Kgosietsile said they would prepare a report with recommendations on the proposed policy. The government of Botswana has yet to ratify the decade old United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Cabinet has been sitting on theNational Disability Policy for three years now. The review on the 1996 national policy on disability was completed and submitted to Cabinet in 2013 and it is yet to be brought before Parliament. Kgosietsile said the policy could assist in providing a conducive environment for PWAs. He said recognising albinism as a disability and incorporating their needs into the National Disability Policy will assist in promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by PWAs as well as promoting respect for their condition.

Although the government extends certain specific services to PWAs such as provision of sunscreen cream through the Ministry of Health and Wellness Kgosietsile says a lot still needs to be done to ensure protection of their members. ASB recently held a ‘Leadership Workshop’ at Sedibeng Lodge in Gaborone Phase 4. “The Objective of the workshop was to impart people with albinism with public speaking, research, advocacy and lobbying, assertiveness and confidence skills,” ASB’s Secretary General Gaontebale Mokgosi told The Telegraph. He said one of the biggest health challenges PWAs face is the ‘lengthy’ period taken before a patient can be screened for possible skin cancer. “It can take for up to three months from booking to the actual screening and by that time whatever sore the patient was complaining about would have developed into a full blown wound.” Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the government will eventually domesticate the CRPD.

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