22-year-old Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants in Zimbabwe’s first Miss Albino beauty contest, which aims to reduce stigma and increase awareness of the condition.
Friday’s “Beauty Beyond the Skin” pageant was held in a Harare nightclub, making Zimbabwe the second African country after Kenya to host such an event.
Many African countries have an uncomfortable relationship with albinism – a genetic disorder inherited from parents who both carry a faulty gene that prevents the skin from making melanin properly and thereby giving it colour.
Albinos are hunted and killed by witch doctors in some African countries, with their body parts then being used in potions to bring good luck or riches. Some are even kidnapped and sold by relatives out to make a fast buck.
Mutukura, a social work student at the University of Zimbabwe, said she entered the pageant to raise awareness.
“The people with disabilities are always looked down upon even in schools. I have gone through a lot but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life,” she said after winning the crown.
“We must continue to advocate for our rights and I hope my win will empower the girl child. People with disabilities must not look down upon themselves.”
The contestants sashayed down the catwalk in gowns and traditional African robes and were asked an array of questions to decide the winner.
Mutukura won a food hamper and US$85 (70 euros) – a fair bit of money in Zimbabwe.
Pageant organizer Brenda Mudzimu said a lack of funds had made it difficult to get the initiative off the ground. In the end, the contest only attracted one sponsor, but Mudzimu says she hopes to one day make the event international.
“The pageant aims to instil confidence in girls living with albinism in Zimbabwe as well as reduce the stigma,” Mudzimu said.