Reflections on being a law student in Montreal as a woman with albinism from Dar es Salaam

Perpetua Senkoro, Advocate and Human Rights Officer with Under the Same Sun in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Site Collaborator on our research project, is studying at McGill University. She writes:

Montreal has so far been quite pleasant. Considering I come from Dar-es-salaam, a coastal city in Tanzania, where it’s pretty much summer all year round, I must say that the winter stories I kept hearing scared me at first. But winter came and went, and surprisingly, I took it quite well, thank God.

Law School at McGill University has been a whole new experience, from the teaching method, technology, to the culture, but it has surely been a huge blessing. I’ve learnt so much… beyond academics, and as a student with albinism, the learning environment has been extremely accommodating. All learning material is easily accessible, the teachers have been friendly, my classmates are nice, my supervisor even checks on me from time to time, and the security: I feel safe. The University has a Disability Office for the accommodation of students with disabilities, but I’ve never even been there, because not once did I feel in need of assistance.

My work in advocating for persons with albinism has been very handy in my legal studies since most courses I’ve taken are human rights oriented. I’ve been able to employ albinism human rights issues in most of my coursework. The plight of Africans with albinism is not known here, so people always find it interesting, and the freedom to explore it in different classroom discussions, some of which I never delved into before has made school more interesting and navigable. Apart from gaining more knowledge on the modern legal profession, I will return home with better critical thinking, writing and research skills, as well as an improved emotional intelligence. These will be quite useful when I get back to work.

I found it much easier to be a woman with albinism in Canada. Mostly because my skin color doesn’t stand out so much. This is my eighth month in Montreal, but I rarely feel my peers looking at me weird, and it doesn’t even feel bad compared to how it usually is back home. One day I was walking to the store and I met a group of many kids on the way, and a familiar feeling of unease swept through me…were it to occur on a street back home, all of them would have stopped and started screaming names at me… but that day, none of the kids even noticed my presence and I just quietly walked past them. That’s never happened to me before. It felt so… nice and peaceful.

Although Civil Society does its best to gather information on albinism; and as important and useful this information has been in advocacy activities, still much of it is anecdotal. This research project will gather factual information that can be more authoritative and persuasive so as to facilitate better advocacy strategies and improved policy frameworks for the enjoyment of rights by women with albinism and mothers of children with albinism.

I believe that by being an African woman with albinism myself, a mother, as well as an advocacy officer at Under The Same Sun (UTSS), an NGO advocating for the rights and welfare of people with albinism in Tanzania and beyond; I am able to bring resourceful contribution to the research team, plus I get to enjoy learning as I work with the experts in the team.

Perpetua Senkoro

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