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BeautyBeyondTheSkin: Kenya hosts inaugural Mr and Miss Albinism beauty pageant

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People with albinism (PWAs) have faced unprecedented discrimination and persecution in parts of Africa, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi in recent years. To fight discrimination, persecution, stigmatisation, and alienation Kenya’s Albinism Society held its inaugural Mr and Miss Albino beauty pageant, an annual campaign to promote self awareness of PWAs in the society.

People with albinism (PWAs) have faced unprecedented discrimination and persecution in parts of Africa, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi in recent years.

To fight the stigma, Kenya’s Albinism Society held its inaugural Mr and Miss Albinism beauty pageant, an annual campaign meant to embrace and promote self awareness of PWAs 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.

Contestants pose on stage during a pageant hosted by the Albinism Society of Kenya in Nairobi on October 21, 2016. In many parts of Africa people with albinism are stigmatised or hunted for their body parts, but for one night in Kenya those with the condition took to the catwalk to show off their unique beauty. Photo: ANP/ AFP Tony Karumba
Contestants pose on stage during a pageant hosted by the Albinism Society of Kenya in Nairobi on October 21, 2016. In many parts of Africa people with albinism are stigmatised or hunted for their body parts, but for one night in Kenya those with the condition took to the catwalk to show off their unique beauty. Photo: ANP/ AFP Tony Karumba

The colourful beauty pageant was held in the capital Nairobi and it was attended by Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto. The catwalk event generated intense excitement and attracted a number of exuberant young people with albinism, oozing with confidence to showcase their beauty and catwalk skills. The line-up of contestants also boasted of confident adults battling for the crown.

Held under the slogan “my beauty my pride”, and promoted under the hashtag #BeautyBeyondTheSkin, the beauty pageant was touted as a great opportunity to help build the confidence and self esteem of PWAs. Kenya’s Albinism Society says most of the people with albinism live with low self esteem due to the difference in colour and the numerous challenges they face such as stigma and discrimination.

Read: Challenging misconceptions: 7 myths on albinism

The pageant created and offered a wider platform for them to showcase their beauty, and modelling talents, to encourage and promote social and economic inclusion of people with albinism.

A contestant walks down the catwalk in his own creation at a pageant hosted by the Albinism Society of Kenya in Nairobi on October 21, 2016. Photo: ANP/ AFP Tony Karumba
A contestant walks down the catwalk in his own creation at a pageant hosted by the Albinism Society of Kenya in Nairobi on October 21, 2016. Photo: ANP/ AFP Tony Karumba

The campaign is a timely and commendable initiative considering the pain and suffering that people with albinism continue to endure in many parts of the continent. PWAs continue to experience persecution a result of misleading misconceptions, and superstitious beliefs systems on albinism. Some of these prevailing attitudes perpetrated by some witchdoctors that body parts of people with albinism bring good luck and wealth have been blamed for the attacks.

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