In some countries in Africa, Albinos are considered evil witches, but last week they asserted their worth in a unique pageant just for them.
In an unprecedented move, a beauty pageant for people with albinism was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on Oct. 21, in which 20 male and female contestants strutted on the catwalk in flashy costumes.
Kenyan MP Isaac Mwaura, who has albinism himself and who is dedicated to helping albinos in East Africa through his foundation Albinism Society of Kenya, organized the event in a bid to show people that those with albinism can be “beautiful and confident.”
“It is hard for us to define ourselves as black people in a black society, while we have white skin,” Mwaura said. “For some of the young people in that room, the pageant gave them an opportunity to feel beautiful for the first time in their lives. I just hope that they can take that feeling now into the world and realize that they are beautiful, inside and out.”
"We will make the world understand that we aren't 'mzungu,'" Mwaura told the audience using a Swahili term for a white person.
"We aren't pesa (money). We are human beings," he added.
The candidates comprised young people who were ostracized — even marked for killing — because of their white skin.
20-year-old Loise Lihanda, who won the title of Miss Albino 2016 and is a journalism and PR student, recounted that her grandfather would have killed her if not for her mother, but she thinks he would be proud of how much she has achieved.
She also stated she volunteers at a charity that cares for albino children, many of whom have been abandoned by their parents.
People with albinism are born with little to no skin pigmentation, which makes them very susceptible to skin cancer. Many also have very sensitive eyes and often are unable to read.
Some regions in Africa consider the condition a curse and others believe it a sign of infidelity, where a black woman had sexual relations with a white man.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the most numbers of albinos than any other place in the world, likely because of inter-marriages — and most of them face discrimination and violence. In countries like Malawi and Tanzania, an alarming number of albinos are killed for their body parts for use in witchcraft.
Witchdoctors in Kenya believe that charms and amulets to ward off evil spirits made from the bones of albinos can bring good fortune and wealth and even cure diseases like AIDS. Some people call albinos “pesa” which means “money” in Swahili — a reference to the huge amount of money that is paid for their bones in countries like Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi.
African albinos are often abducted and their limbs amputated and kept as good luck trophies some even have their hair, eyes and genitals removed.
Politicians allegedly have murdered albinos because they think their skin and organs will bring them success in elections.
The United Nations shows a bleak report that states there have been 65 recorded attacks on Malawian albinos since November 2014. Forty attacks took places across Africa in just eight months before March 2016. The human rights group Under the Same Sun stated 207 people with albinism were killed between 2007 and 2013 in Africa.
Many others such Africans have become victims of rape and mutilation.
Attacks on albinos were so prevalent last year that the United Nations has deemed the group as “an endangered people” and has given dire warning that if the violence against them continues, it could lead to their “extinction.”