First Albino Beauty Pageant in Kenya
Contest aims at fighting against persecution of albinos in East AfricaNovember 11th, 2016
Young people with albinism in Kenya have participated in the first ‘Mister and Miss Albinism’ pageant in the capital of Nairobi to demystify their condition. The Kenyan Albinism Society organised the event to celebrate ten years of its existence and to show the beauty in people living with albinism as well as to extinguish stigma associated with the medical condition.
This beauty pageant was like many others, except for one thing: all 20 contestants had albinism. Ten women and ten men modelled the latest fashions at the event whilst competing for the title of Mr and Miss Albinism Kenya in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people, including the Deputy President William Ruto.
The contestants used the occasion to petition the government to better recognise and respect their condition. They catwalked in professional outfits such as army officers, waiters and police officers to highlight that albinos belong in every part of the country’s workforce. Other outfits were crafted from materials such as cement bags, balloons, paper bags, doormats, cotton wool and CDs, showcasing creativity and individual style.
Michael Ogochi, a 21-year-old contestant, claimed that the pageant helped him to trust himself. “Growing up was hard for me, nobody wanted to be with me. You have to work on your self-esteem and have a thick skin”, he said.
The first ever Mr and Miss Kenya titles went to Jairus Jzay and Loise Lihanda respectively.
Loyce Lihanda stated: “For so long albinos have been treated as half-humans because they are different. In turn this has affected our self-esteem and the ability to utilise and explore our skills and talents”.
In several countries in southern and eastern Africa, such as Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Mozambique, people with albinism are subjected to numerous attacks. In Kenya, albinism is a highly stigmatised condition. The biggest threat to people with the condition is the trade in albino body parts, used in traditional medicine and believed to bring good luck and financial and political gain on the black market.
Isaac Mwaura, Kenya’s first and only albino MP, said Kenyans needed to change their attitude towards albinos, and pointed out that the celebration marked 10 years of campaigning by the Albinism Society of Kenya. “A time is coming when we will have people with albinism serving in the army and police force. We already have some in the National Youth Service, and this is a milestone in achieving inclusion despite the difference in skin colour”, he said.
“We have come to say that people with disability are beautiful people. We can have the names ‘beautiful’, ‘handsome’ and ‘albinism’ in one society”.