A Kenyan charity held a pageant on Friday for people with albinism in a bid to affirm the dignity of a group that has faced discrimination, violence and even murder because of the hereditary condition.
The competition for 30 participants was organized by the Albinism Society of Kenya with partners in Uganda and Tanzania.
Emmanuel Silas Shedrack, 20, also a Tanzanian and 19-year-old Maryanne Muigai from Kenya were crowned the winners. They will both get cash prizes and act as ambassadors for the partner organizations for a year.
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.
The condition is said to be more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere. The United Nations estimates 1 in 1,400 people are affected in Tanzania and 1 in 1,000 in Zimbabwe.
People with albinism have been attacked or even killed in some African countries for their body parts because of a belief that they possess magical powers.
The pageant, which aims to overcome that stigma, was titled “accept me, include me, I can”.
Okwii Simon Peter, a 26-year-old Ugandan lawyer, said he was taking part to demonstrate that living with albinism does not make him different.
“We are here mainly to create awareness, to do advocacy … showcasing our beauty and talent,” he told Reuters.
Valencia Bosibori, 25, a customer care executive at a telecom firm in Kenya took part in a similar event held in 2016 that was open only to Kenyans. She said she wanted to “reach people who don’t have that knowledge of what albinism is.”