Mary Meschu is just one of the 170,000 Tanzanian albinos living under the weight of superstition.
Her pale skin stands in stark contrast to those around her, causing many to believe she, and others like her, are ghosts, a cursed type of people. They call them “zeru zeru”, which literally means double zero. Less than nothing.
Ironically, a high price is placed on the heads of those with albinism. Witch-doctors pay more than $50,000 for body parts to use in potions and ceremonies. In a country with an average daily income of $1, it is an attractive bounty.
Hunters, lured by this bounty, approached Mary’s teacher when she was just 11 years old.
Fortunately, the teacher refused to sell her and Mary’s friends were quickly rallied and put on high alert.
At birth, Mary’s father had accused her mother, Happiness, of having an affair.
“Nothing of my blood could be like this,” he claimed.
He fled, leaving Happiness to struggle alone. Mary fought to provide for her family. She sold fish and bananas on the road-side, but without a breadwinner, the family slipped further into poverty.
Eventually, Happiness remarried and Mary felt safe and secure. But it wouldn’t last long.
Mary’s stepfather, the only father she had ever known, heard that albinos could bring him success—if he could sleep with an albino he would discover great wealth.
“I heard about the rape,” Happiness said. “She told me the horrible thing my husband had done.”
Ashamed, Mary’s stepfather ran. Months passed and Happiness watched her family slip further into poverty. Desperate for help, and left with little choice, Happiness accepted her husband back.
“My father attempted to rape me again,” Mary said. “I tried to keep my distance, but he continued to try and rape me.”
Thanks to ADRA’s work with Tanzania’s albino Mary has been provided with a safe place to study, access to vital health services, and the community around her is being taught about the truth of albinism.
Psalm 82:3-4 calls us to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”.
The 170,000 albinos in Tanzania and the more than 1 million women and children trafficked for sex and sexual exploitation around the world, need us to hear that call.
For Mary and other albinos in Tanzania, ADRA, in conjunction with the Tanzanian Albino Society, has helped to build safer schools, improve access to health care and give albinos a stronger voice in their community. And, in places like Thailand, ADRA is providing support to girls at risk of being forced into the ever growing sex trade.