An Albino beauty pageant recently held in Nairobi, Kenya stands as a rare opportunity for people with albinism to celebrate their beauty in a public event, without fear of stigma. The pageant, which was held last week, featured 20 contestants and was attended by friends, family and local politicians.
“We will make the world understand that we aren’t ‘mzungu,'” Kenya’s first and only albino MP, Isaac Mwaura told an audience at Nairobi’s Carnivore restaurant where the event was held. Mzungu is a Bantu language term for a white person. When directed at Africans with albinism and used as a slur, the word is meant to deny their heritage, culture, and racial identity.
In addition to ridicule and harassment, Africans with albinism are often ostracized by their communities and even threatened with violence. According a United Nations report, approximately 76 individuals with albinism in Tanzania have been murdered since 2000. Advocacy group Under the Same Sun reports that approximately 207 people with albinism were killed in Africa between 2007 and 2013.
Events like beauty pageants, which are held across the continent, aim to end stigma by raising awareness. Contestants often read poems and sing songs about their experiences as a person with albinism. While change takes time, pageants can play an important part in changing the lives of people with albinism all over the world.