June 13th marked International Albinism Awareness Day. To some it was just an ordinary day, but The Weight She Carries took this opportunity to interview a successful woman living with Albinism, Brenda Mudzimu.
Born on October 20, 1985 in a family of seven – three siblings from her father and three from her mother plus herself – Mudzimu was the only child born with albinism.
Her parents divorced when she was very young, resulting in her being raised by her grandmother until Grade 5.
“It wasn’t easy growing up,” Mudzimu told The Weight She Carries. “I was socially discriminated against; however, my family was supportive.”
Albinism is a genetic condition that results in the lack of pigment in the skin, hair and/or eyes. The condition occurs in all racial and ethnic groups worldwide.
According to National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, most children born with albinism have parents with hair and eye colour that is consistent with their ethnic backgrounds.
Because albinism is misunderstood by many, people living with the condition face social stigmatization, particularly within communities of colour. This is because the race and paternity of someone with albinism may be questioned. As a result, people living with albinism are often shunned by their communities.
“I was bullied almost every day in Grade 3,” Mudzimu recalled. “On one fateful day, I was attacked with a stone and it hit me in my forehead. I bled all the way home.”
It is reported that in North America and Europe, roughly 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000 people have albinism.
In Africa, occurrence is much higher with an estimated 1 in every 5,000 to 15,000 people having albinism, with some countries having estimates as high as 1 in 1,000.
In some African countries, people with albinism are at risk of being kidnapped and killed for their body parts, which are sold on the black market at a high price to people who believe people with albinism have magic or gold in their bones that will make others rich.
Under The Same Sun (UTSS), a Tanzania-based organization committed to ending discrimination and violence against people with albinism, reported that the prevalence of albinism in Tanzania is estimated to be 1 in 1,400 and 1 in 19 carry the gene.
This rate is more than 14 times that of North America and Europe.
A lot of myths surround the issue of albinism and people living with it, Mudzimu said.
“Some people believe that if someone sleeps with a person living with albinism, you get cured of HIV/AIDS. People also ask if it’s true that we do not die.”
In all the labelling and victimization, Mudzimu said she relied on her inner-strength to make it through.
“I decided to be strong, to persevere, to be brave and to never give up,” she said. “My inspiration also came from reading inspirational novels from renowned Zimbabwean author and motivational speaker Milton Kamwendo. Whenever I felt low, I would read his books and feel strong again.”
Mudzimu is now the Founding Director of the Miss Albinism Zimbabwe Trust, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and the second in Africa after Kenya. The main goal of the initiative, she said, is to ensure all girls and women living with albinism become confident and also take part in activities that everyone else enjoys.
“I started the pageant when I realized the power beauty has over the younger generation. So, I wanted people to take notice and learn about albinism through Miss Albinism Zimbabwe. I started by researching on how to direct a beauty pageant and as a result got some tips,” Mudzimu said.
MudzimuMudzimu has a few words of advice to all women in general from the lessons she has learnt throughout her life:
- “Every woman should be strong despite what she faces, don’t mind what people say.”
- “When you dream don’t end there, you have to turn the dream to a desire and then action. Knock on the doors which other people are afraid to knock on. Fight for yourself, you are responsible for your dreams.”
- “Be kind to people despite their treatment.”