The fairest of them all
The array of talent on display showed that condition is no hindrance to living a full life
Thirty participants from across East Africa on Friday night took part in the inaugural Mr and Miss Albinism beauty pageant organised by Kenya Albinism Society.
The pageant, which aims to fight the stigma associated with albinism, was titled “Accept me, include me, I can” and was touted as a great opportunity to help build the confidence and self-esteem of people living with the condition.
The array of talent displayed by various contestants at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) was a huge statement that people with albinism are beautiful, beyond the skin.
Emmanuel Silas Shedrack, 20, from Tanzania and 19-year-old Maryanne Muigai from Kenya were crowned the winners. They won cash prizes of undisclosed amounts and were named ambassadors for the partner organisations for a year.
The groundbreaking pageant calls for inclusion of people living with albinism who remain the target of sometimes deadly stigma in Africa.
It was a bid to affirm the dignity of a group that has faced discrimination, violence and even murder because of the hereditary condition. The event is part of wider efforts to fight the stigma by celebrating the beauty of people with albinism.
In 2016, Kenya's Albinism Society held its inaugural Mr and Miss Albinism beauty pageant, an annual campaign meant to promote awareness of people living with albinism in the society to stop the persecution, abuse, discrimination and stigmatisation.
The pageant was created to raise funds to promote education for PWAS, and the organisers said the funds will help to create employment opportunities and open a wider job market for people with albinism in both social and political responsibilities.
The pageant was organised under the stewardship of ASK National Coordinator, Senator Isaac Mwaura.
Cabinet Secretary for Labour Ukur Yatani, who was the chief guest, said that the council will provide sunscreen, lip balm, wide brim hats and cancer screening services to all persons with albinism across the country. “My ministry will work with all the other sponsors represented here today to ensure all other activities of the albinism society are successful.”
Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition that leads to a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to the sun and bright light, according to the United Nations.
In several countries in southern and eastern Africa, such as Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Mozambique, persons with albinism are subjected to numerous attacks.
Some even seek their limbs and other parts of their bodies for rituals believed to bring wealth and luck. This type of attack is, however, rare in Kenya.
Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no colour.
Mr and Miss Albinism East Africa 2018 winners Emmanuel Silas Shedrack from Tanzania and Maryanne Muigai from Kenya and other finalists on Friday at KICC in Nairobi.