Kenya is seen as a regional example, under the leadership of the Albinism Society of Kenya (ASK), which has pushed to institute several national programs. People with albinism in Kenya are eligible for free sunscreen, paid for by the government, and free skin cancer screenings. There are also some high profile people with albinism, including ASK chairman Isaac Mwaura, a Kenyan MP, who came up with the idea for a beauty pageant.
Contenders line up for the pageant. The lighting is purposefully low to protect their eyes.
“I organized this pageant because I wanted to show the world that we have something to offer”
Participants arrive for the pre-pageant boot camp.
We chose participants from across the country. We brought the 20 finalists to Nairobi for a week-long boot camp with professional trainers. Some of them arrived with very low self-esteem, but we worked on self-presentation and public speaking.
We brought on board local designers, sponsors and international judges, including the winner of Miss World Kenya.
The young women who participated in the pageant try on shoes.
The event itself was an amazing success. We had ambassadors, members of parliament and even the deputy president attend. I was most moved during the “professional attire” category.
One contender dressed as a police officer, another as a sportsman and another in military uniform. It was as if they were broadcasting how wide their horizons are.
Participating in the pageant was the first time that I had been with such a big group of people with albinism and we were so excited to share our experiences and dreams. During the boot camp, the trainers pushed us really hard. I love things that challenge me, so the whole thing was a great learning experience.
I was really inspired by my fellow contenders. During the talent category, one recited a spoken word piece, another danced and another rode his skateboard. I sang a gospel song. I definitely didn’t expect to win. I was shocked when they announced it. Later, people told me that confidence is what helped me to win. And I did feel beautiful.
Loise Lihanda is selected as the pageant winner.
As Miss Albinism Kenya, my plan is to create a performance to raise awareness amongst parents of children with albinism. I’ve always dreamed of working to help people like me and now I can.
Loise Lihanda was crowned winner, next to fellow winner Jairus Jzay.
“I had a teacher who was prejudiced against albinos and she made my life miserable” she recounted
The Albinism Society of Kenya (ASK) works to empower and aid people with albinism and provide them with access to both education and health care, including skin cancer screenings and eye check-ups. The ASK also funds the education of 65 children to counter the fact that many albino children are kept home from school or drop out due to their poor eyesight.