• Entrants in world's first albino beauty contest, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
Mr and Miss Albinism Kenya were crowned in a contest that was held to promote greater acceptance and understanding of the condition.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

3 Nov 2016 - 1:17 PM  UPDATED 3 Nov 2016 - 1:29 PM

The world's first albino beauty contest has been held in Kenya, a country where being born albino means risking daily attacks or death. 

The pageant, which was organised by the Albinism Society of Kenya and called Beauty Beyond Skin, was held in Nairobi on October 21 to show the beauty of people living with albinism, and help combat the stigma associated with the medical condition.

The genetic condition, which results in a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, is still strongly associated with witchcraft in some African cultures and there have been numerous attacks in countries such as Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi, Kenya and Mozambique.

The contestants used the event to petition the government to give them greater protection.

All of the contestants said they had been called "zeru", which means ghost in Swahili, or "pesa", meaning money, in reference to the value placed on their body parts.

The pageant saw 10 women and 10 men model professional outfits such as fisherman, soldiers and rugby players, to show that they can be part of the country's workforce.

They also showcased their own creativity, wearing outfits crafted from materials including balloons, paper bags, dormats, CDs and cement bags.

In front of a crowd of about 1,000 people, including Deputy President William Ruto, Jairus Jzay and Loise Lihanda were crowned Mr and Miss Kenya.

After taking out the Miss Albinism Kenya title, Lihanda told the Daily Maverick: "For so long albinos have been treated as half-humans because they [are] different. In turn this has affected our self-esteem and the ability to utilise and explore our skills and talents.

"We come from a mentality that we cannot achieve what ‘normal’ people can because we are different. Yet time has proven that we can excel."

One of the event organisers, Issac Mwaura, who is also Kenya's first and only albino MP, said greater inclusion in the workforce was slowly being achieved.  

"We have come to say that people with disability are beautiful people. We can have the names ‘beautiful’, ‘handsome’ and ‘albinism’ in one society," he said.

Around 1,000 Australians have albinism. That’s equal to one in 17,000.

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi estimates that 7,000 to 10,000 people have albinism in Malawi alone. It is estimated that one in every 5,000 to 15,000 people is born with albinism in Africa and as many as one in 1,400 in Tanzania.

related
People with albinism in Africa are being hunted for body parts
Today is International Albinism Awareness Day, bringing focus to people with albinism who are being hunted for their body parts in Africa - and the number of killings are increasing.
Justin Dingwall fights the taboo of albinism in South Africa with powerful photography
People with albinism are often shunned, subject to discrimination and sometimes even violence in this photographer’s homeland, which is why he’s on a mission to change how they are perceived.