22-year-old Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants in Zimbabwe’s first Miss Albinism beauty contest aimed at reducing stigma and increasing awareness about 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 a dark 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 color.
They are hunted down in some African countries by witch doctors for their body parts which are used in potions to bring good luck or riches. Some are even kidnapped and sold by relatives out to make a fast buck.
Between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are affected by the genetic disorder in America. In Africa, millions of people suffer discrimination with over 600,000 in Nigerian alone. The United Nations report that there have been over 600 attacks on people with albinism documented in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. The real number is thought to be much higher, but many are too afraid to come forward.
Mutukura said she entered the pageant to raise awareness.
"We must continue to advocate for our rights, and I hope my win will empower the girl child," she said. "I have gone through a lot, but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life."