Joseph, young disability rights leader, Tanzania

Joseph’s Story.

Joseph is passionate about fighting for disability rights, his story shows how empowering young people can change lives.

The Impact of Discrimination.

“My twin brother and I both have albinism. As we grew up, the kind of discrimination we faced was very intense. 

There were a lot of misconceptions and mythical ideas – people believed that we were cursed, that we bring bad luck, that we are evil people. 

This was not just the students but the teachers and the caregivers. I have to admit that it was a very bad situation. 

I had no idea how I was going to help people understand. It demoralised our confidence and our self-esteem, impacted how we made friends. This was the same in our neighbourhood and the community around us.

In African culture, if you have a child that is different from other children it can be very tough, but all my parents did was show us love. If you receive support from your family unit, it gives you great confidence to believe in yourself. 

My father told us, ‘people will bully you, but be strong, love yourself and know that you are good people’. 

The most important thing he did was to teach me to accept myself and then all the problems I had to face would be easier to overcome. 

I wanted to know how I could explain to people the truth about albinism. I did so much research, and as I started speaking, I gained confidence. I protested to my teachers about the school dress code – I have to wear a hat to protect my skin from the sun – but it was not part of the uniform. Once I explained the challenges myself, and my brother faced they changed the rules.

My official activism began with The Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s Organizations (SHIVYAWATA) and ADD International. They gave me my first formal understanding of how advocacy works – building alliances, contacting powerholders and creating campaigns. 

I am so proud of how it shaped me to become an organised activist for disability justice.

ADD has given me so many opportunities to make change. I’ve attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Global Disability Summit to raise so many issues.

Young leaders are the future. Young people today are facing huge challenges and not taking their views and issues seriously is a big mistake. 

It is so important to engage young people in the decision-making process. I believe it is the only way to make sustainable change and create the fairer world we all want. 

Activism gives me strength, and I believe I have a responsibility to make the world a more inclusive place. I think we all do.

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