Community engagement in Gokwe – 17th to 19th February 2023
The community engagement process was conducted from the17th to the to the 19th of February 2023 in Gokwe. It was mainly organized by ZIMAS in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social welfare and the District Development Coordinator’s office. The community engagement was conducted for the purpose of training the community on how best they can promote and ensure the inclusion of persons with albinism. Special emphasis was also given to issues such as Gender Based Violence, Harmful Practices and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. It was designed as a training of trainers to ensure that the message reaches out to many people in these communities. Children and women with albinism also received confidence building coaching which they are expected to instill in their fellow persons with albinism.
The first event was held on the 17th of February comprising a comprehensive training of women with albinism and community leaders. A total of 33 people attended the workshop (13 women with albinism, 20 community leaders (14 males and 6 females). Facilitators from ZIMAS conducted the training which included confidence building for women with albinism. Women with albinism were also given an opportunity to share experiences that are peculiar to their gender. The discussions were very fruitful as several issues affecting women with albinism came out. Special emphasis was given on the issue of skin care and etiquette and importance of seeing oneself differently in a positive way and not making decisions based on self-pity. Issues of abuse and exclusion amongst other important issues in social, economic, and political circles toped the discussion.
Community leaders who were part of this training included chiefs, sub chiefs, community care workers, village health workers, representatives from the Ministries of Health and Childcare, Primary and Secondary Education and Public Service, Labour and Social welfare Furthermore representatives from the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the District Development Coordinator’s office and office of the President and Cabinet as well as traditional healers and faith based leaders also attended the workshop. Focus group discussions between women with albinism and community leaders were undertaken to establish the level of knowledge that the community leaders had about albinism. The focus group discussions set the tone for a more informative and interactive discussion. It was established from this dialogue that these community leaders had limited knowledge about albinism and disability. One of the community leaders had this to say after being asked what causes albinism
“They are just born that way. The parents might have mocked other parents of an albino child.”
The sensitisation process by ZIMAS staff enabled the community leaders to change their mind-sets towards albinism as some pledged to ensure that children, women and persons with albinism’s rights within their communities are upheld and considered. Most of the chiefs and sub-chiefs admitted that they knew almost nothing about albinism and those who had some ideas were misinformed. Most of them believed that albinism originated from one parent’s genes, yet it is an inherited genetic condition from both parents
ZIMAS staff provided information about albinism to the participants concerning what albinism is. A question-and-answer session on albinism was carried out, where ZIMAS staff took an opportunity to sensitise the participants about the albinism condition in terms skin care and eye health. Some of the women with albinism were spoken to individually as some of their cases were sensitive. Women with albinism learnt from each other from sharing their experiences and their knowledge and self-esteem was enhanced by the information provided by ZIMAS staff. Community leaders benefited a lot from the training as it provided a practical session with the very people whom they need to include in community initiatives.