Mr and Miss Albinism SA hope to change how they are viewed

South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December.

The aim is to draw attention towards removing barriers and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.

Eyewitness News caught up with the organisers of Mr and Miss Albinism South Africa who said they aim to break stereotypes and myths surrounding persons with albinism by holding an annual pageant for people with the condition.

Albinism by definition is a hereditary genetic disorder causing the skin, hair, and even eyes to appear colourless.

“Our aim is not only to educate others about albinism, but to inspire those who are born with the condition to embrace who they are.” This is what the founder and CEO of Mr and Miss Albinism South Africa Mr Godfrey Mphatswe always says about this movement.

“We aim to break the stereotypes, myths, and discrimination that the society has against persons with albinism in their homes, schools, hospitals, streets or workplace etcetera.”

The organisers said they hope to create a community that includes people living with disabilities and truly considers their needs.

“We aim to bring together the albinism community with our communities in unity and oneness,” said Mphatswe.

Disability Awareness Month is seen as an opportunity to remove barriers and to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities through action and educating society around the correct terminology to use. The organisers of Mr and Miss Albinism South Africa said this is what they are all about.

The organisers say: “The contest is about firstly educating people that persons with albinism don’t live with albinism but have an albinism condition and the correct way is to refer them as ‘persons with albinism’. The contest is also to embrace each other, uniqueness, and instilling confidence to embrace their own look.

“To not only uplift but to aspire and improve the lives of those who struggle with albinism and celebrate their uniqueness together.”

People with albinism usually suffer from poor eyesight caused by the irises’ inability to block light. They’re visually and physically sensitive to light and have increased chances of skin cancer. The organisation hopes to instil confidence in those who have the condition and break barriers that society has set for persons with albinism.

“We hope the winners become the leaders and role models which they always aspired to be, to allow them to shine without boundaries and limitations which they endured for so long from their own communities as well as in the fashion and media industry.

“The title and the crown are now there to support and grant them confidence, to face the world and address issues faced by persons with albinism and different disabilities as they know and understand the pain better,” the organisation states.

In some African countries, for example Uganda, albinism is viewed as a curse. Individuals with albinism are usually shunned. They’re shut away and cut off from society. Their families are often ashamed of them, they are criticised, discriminated against, teased, and in some cases killed.

“The community has now seen with this crowning event that persons with albinism are as educated, smart and talented as everyone, that their condition is not a limitation but needs necessary adjustment and consideration from them to enable us to perform better and effectively. And lastly, albinism is not a curse but just a condition like any other. And most importantly we all carry these genes and tomorrow might be them or their families having kids with this condition”.

There are a lot of superstitions surrounding persons with albinism. Some people believe witch doctors can make a potion using body parts of children with albinism to bring luck. This is particularly common in Tanzania, where children will be trafficked from other countries to be slaughtered.

“We are not represented anywhere nor noticed; we are always scared for our lives. We are being kidnapped and some people have strange beliefs that our body parts can make them rich. That’s nonsense and so untrue,” said the organisation.

The Mr and Miss Albinism South Africa want to see more people living with disabilities taking an active role in society so that spaces are more accessible for everyone and there is a voice for them.

“We would really like to see persons with disabilities being a greater part of the community, being elected as leaders in communities and public sector. Malawi has just sworn one of us in as a parliamentarian; this is what we need to see here at home.”

Source: EWN



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