Albinism is a rare, hereditary condition that leads to a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes. Without melanin in their skin, those with albinism are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of the sun. Mr and Miss Albinism, held in November, aimed to help combat the discrimination and violence frequently faced by the group. In Africa, albinism is associated with many negative misconceptions and superstitions. As a result, many albinos suffer stigma, alienation and even physical abuse. The pageant, called “Accept me, include me, I can”, included participants from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and aimed to boost the confidence of young people with albinism. This year saw 30 participants compete for the pageant crowns.
Elizabeth James, a Tanzanian national, told Nairobi News how she was forced to change schools as a child when people stared and trailed her home. “The threat has reduced greatly, but it’s still there,” she said. Okwii Simon Peter, 26, a lawyer from Uganda, told Reuters news agency that he was taking part in the pageant to show that living with albinism does not make him different. He said “We are here mainly to create awareness, to do advocacy showcasing our beauty and talent.” Valencia Bosibori, 25, a customer care executive at a telecom firm in Kenya, took part in a similar event held in 2016 that was open only to Kenyans. She told Reuters she wanted to “reach people who don’t have that knowledge of what albinism is”. Emmanuel Silas Shedrack, 20, from Tanzania and Maryanne Muigai, 19, from Kenya were crowned the winners.