Chivai Kasuwa never thought she’d become a model and take part in a beauty contest.
But the third-year university student is on a mission – to educate people around the world about albinism. “I feel like people don’t understand what albinism actually is, and they don’t know how to treat it, so a lot of ignorance comes through it, a person would come to be and just start touching me, like pulling my skin and pinching me. Guys would come to me and ask me if I’m with you am I going to get cured or what are you, like so many weird questions, the experiences can be violent… but it’s mostly ignorance,” she shared.
Albinism – a rare, genetically inherited condition in which people are born with no pigment in their skin, hair and eyes – is more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world.
With 1 in 1400 people affected in Tanzania, and 1 in 1000 in Zimbabwe, according to the United Nations. Across Africa, albinos are often shunned, ostracized, beaten and even killed.
In some countries, their body parts are used for magic potions.
But at this recent contest in Nairobi, organizers from the Albinism Societies of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania said they’re trying to change perceptions.Chair of Albinism Society of Kenya, Isaac Mwaura said, “This region has lost over 200 people with Albinism as a result of the killings. So I really thought that maybe people need to understand who we are to see the true colors of ourselves and also ensure that persons with albinism have an equal opportunity especially in a self definition activity in regards to the arts for example in terms of beauty.”
30 participants – including Kasuwa – competed, taking center stage in an array of costumes.
She didn’t get the top crown, but hopes to become an ambassador for people living with albinism
Helping to spread the pageant’s message of ‘accept me, include me, I can’.