Most African countries, particularly Kenya and Tanzania, have had issues with how they treat albino individuals. The marginalized group has been stigmatized and in some worst cases, they have been killed for their bones. In other communities, they have been viewed as a curse. But work is ongoing somewhere in Kenya to change all that.
The assumption that an albino condition is a curse is null and void. Albinism is just a skin disease in which melanin fails to develop and thus failing to give skin color.
To make sure that this group’s stigmatization is fought, the world’s first albinism beauty pageant was held in Nairobi.
The beauty pageant had 20 contestants who, among other things, sang songs, danced and flaunted eye-catching fashion to the public. Some of the attendants to the late October event were political leaders from diverse backgrounds.
Shift from the past
Albinos have in the past suffered discrimination – and even death – but the occasion marked a striking shift from this horrible history.
The United Nations produced a report about the past incidences. In its report, the UN said that within the past 8 months before March 2016, 40 albinos were attacked. A separate advocacy group called Under the Same Sun estimates that between 2007 and 2013, 207 albino people were killed in Africa. Their attackers believe that the albino bones are a source of wealth, good luck and happiness.
Many other albino Africans are subjected to mutilation, rape and violence.
The discrimination can even be felt today though at reduced heights. In Kenya’s parliament where there are more than 330 MPS, the country has only one albino MP.
Isaac Mwaura is the first and only albino MP in Kenya. He was significant in organizing the event and said that he needs to bring in a new tune.
While speaking to the audience, he said that he seeks to make the world understand albinos are not a “mzungu.” Mzungu is a Swahili name for a white person.
He further insisted that “We aren’t pesa (money). We are human beings.”
Bad History for Kenya
Kenya hasn’t recorded such a favorable history in terms of how it treats the albino community. People with albinism have in many occasions been called “pesa” – a Swahili term for “money.” This is based on the rumors that their bones are bought in countries like Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.
Albinism is a genetic condition that is inherited. It is caused by lack of pigment in skin, hair and eyes.
There are African communities that consider this to be a curse. There are some that view it as having been caused by infidelity. In this myth, a mother is considered to have had an affair with a whit man. In many of the instances where an albino child is born, the fathers tend to abandon their families. The single mothers ostracized by their communities are left to single-handedly take care of the children.
One such victim is Simon Gachucha, a 20-year-old energetic young man with a promising future. He was among the 20 contestants. He says that people would ask his mother “What kind of a mother are you?” The trauma she went through made her loose self-confidence, wondering “how she could have a child with albinism.” Gachucha says that her mother would think she has a problem.
Due to the lack of confidence that his mother depicted, he grew with low self-esteem.
“It has not been an easy journey to acceptance,” he said. “I had to understand that I could not die and be reborn as a black man. I needed to realize that I am a black man because I was born by a black woman.”
Since the deadly occurrences of 2009, two albinos were killed in Kenya. Four other children were also rescued.
The United Nations says that this situation is far much horrible in other countries. In Malawi for instance, 65 cases of attacks were recorded in the year 2014.
The beauty contest raising courage
Contestants in the beauty contest said that they are now confident enough to “hold their heads high.”
While speaking about his experience, Jairus Ong’etta said that discrimination due skin color is evident in Kenya. He said that white in Kenya is a representation of not just peace but also a people, a face.
He was crowned the Mr. Albinism. Loise Lihanda won the Miss Albinism.
Lihanda said that she used to sit in her classroom’s back, wearing a big hat and facing down. She says that she is now confident to hold her head high.
Whereas a lot is yet to be done to ensure equality, such events are helpful in restoring confidence. The society’s attitude towards the albinos ought to change for the better.