Co-Winner of Albinism Pageant Finds Empowerment and Purpose Through Zimbabwean Event

by Gabriel Martinez
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Albinism Pageant

Donning an ornate crown and clutching a floral bouquet, Andreia Solange Sicato Muhitu radiated joy as she was declared a co-winner at the first-ever Mr. and Miss Albinism Southern Africa competition.

The 28-year-old model from Angola has participated in multiple beauty contests in her homeland since her adolescent years and has even claimed several titles. However, the recent pageant in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, devoted to individuals with albinism, has given her an unprecedented sense of beauty and mission.

Muhitu declared, “I aim to be an exemplar for young girls, particularly those living with albinism, encouraging them to embrace their uniqueness and beauty. This is the potent message we strive to disseminate.”

According to the United Nations human rights agency, albinism—a genetic disorder that curtails melanin production—remains widely misunderstood. Those with this condition have light-colored skin, hair, and eyes, are sensitive to sunlight and bright lights, often experience vision issues, and are susceptible to skin cancer.

While conventional beauty pageants have faced scrutiny for commodifying women, Muhitu believes that the event on October 14th holds the potential to instigate positive societal shifts in regions of Africa where people with albinism often confront scorn, mockery, and even violent actions fueled by perilous myths.

“Being crowned has bestowed upon me an unforeseen opportunity to improve the lives of people with albinism, not only in Angola but throughout the region. I feel not shame, but empowerment,” she articulated, as people congregated around her to offer their congratulations.

Such myths include the erroneous belief that sexual intercourse with an albino person can cure HIV, or that their body parts possess magical properties capable of bringing good fortune or enhancing the potency of mystical concoctions. These falsehoods are particularly rampant in countries like Malawi and Tanzania, where people with albinism sometimes face lethal threats.

Even with anti-discrimination legislation in place, the contestants noted that societal prejudice is a daily ordeal. Many spoke of familial rejection and fathers disowning them upon realizing their child had albinism. The contestants also emphasized their struggle to find affordable skincare and cancer treatments, as they often encounter derision or insults instead.

Employed as the head of the tourism department in Angola’s southeastern Cuando Cubango province, Muhitu recalled how mockery during her school years nearly thwarted her aspirations. However, celebrating her skin has enabled her and others to counteract harmful stereotypes and stigmas.

Muhitu pointed out the divergence between written law and actual societal behavior, stating, “There’s a vast chasm between progressive legislation and the grim reality we face. Art forms like modeling contests and storytelling can serve as potent instruments to alter mindsets.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, albinism is relatively prevalent, affecting approximately 1 in 5,000 individuals. In specific ethnic groups in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa, the frequency can even be as high as 1 in 1,000—far greater than the 1 in 17,000 to 20,000 rate in North America and Europe, as indicated by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Eighteen participants, hailing from countries including South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, and Tanzania, engaged in the regional Zimbabwean pageant. Their occupations ranged from fashion designers and healthcare professionals to full-time models. The contestants entertained a modest audience with their talents in poetry, music, and dance, and strutted the stage in various attires before addressing questions on an array of social and economic matters.

Organized under the banner “Into the Light,” the competition aimed to illuminate the untapped potential of people with albinism, who commonly encounter brutal treatment and ostracization in their communities. Brenda Mudzimu, also living with albinism and the event’s organizer, said her Miss Albinism Trust had initially launched the competition as a local endeavor in Zimbabwe in 2018.

Mudzimu noted, “We experience both mental and physical torment, yet we differ from others only in skin tone.”

Judges evaluated the contestants on criteria such as charisma, self-assurance, grace, walking quality, and intelligence. The title of Mr. Albinism Southern Africa went to Ntandoyenkosi Mnkandla, a 26-year-old trainee paralegal from Zimbabwe. Winners were also awarded in various categories, receiving cash prizes, trophies, medals, and floral gifts.

For her victory as Miss Albinism, Muhitu, who won $250, extolled the increasing recognition of albinism-focused events in Africa. “These pageants serve as a potent platform for demonstrating our boundless capabilities. We have dreams, talents, and are extraordinary individuals. Without such opportunities, however, our potential would remain unrealized,” she concluded.

Source: AP Africa news: Link to Website

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Albinism Pageant

What was the main event discussed in the article?

The article primarily discusses the first-ever Mr. and Miss Albinism Southern Africa pageant, which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Who is Andreia Solange Sicato Muhitu?

Andreia Solange Sicato Muhitu is a 28-year-old model from Angola who was declared a co-winner of the Mr. and Miss Albinism Southern Africa pageant.

What is the significance of the pageant for people with albinism?

The pageant serves as a platform to break societal prejudices and myths surrounding albinism. It aims to empower individuals with albinism and give them a sense of purpose and beauty.

What challenges do people with albinism face, according to the article?

People with albinism face various challenges, including societal prejudice, familial rejection, and violent actions fueled by dangerous myths. They also struggle to find affordable skincare and cancer treatments.

How does Andreia Solange Sicato Muhitu view the impact of her win?

Muhitu believes that her win provides her with an unprecedented opportunity to improve the lives of people with albinism, not only in her home country of Angola but throughout the southern African region. She feels empowered and aims to serve as an inspiration for others.

What myths and superstitions surrounding albinism are mentioned in the article?

The article mentions myths such as the belief that sexual intercourse with a person with albinism can cure HIV, and that their body parts have magical properties that can bring good fortune or enhance witchcraft potions.

How many contestants participated in the pageant and where did they come from?

Eighteen participants from countries including South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, and Tanzania took part in the regional pageant in Zimbabwe.

What was the theme of the pageant?

The theme of the pageant was “Into the Light,” aiming to spotlight the untapped potential and talents of people with albinism.

Who organized the event and what was its history?

The event was organized by Brenda Mudzimu, who also has albinism. Her Miss Albinism Trust initially launched the competition as a local endeavor in Zimbabwe in 2018.

Are there any statistics provided about the prevalence of albinism?

Yes, the article states that in sub-Saharan Africa, albinism affects approximately 1 in 5,000 individuals. In specific ethnic groups in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa, the frequency can be as high as 1 in 1,000.

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