By Tafadzwa Chigandiwa
Before becoming a nurse, Brenda Mudzimu tried her hand at every job. Each time she attended a job interview the interviewers would turn glum upon seeing her condition.
Although she now leads a very popular beauty pageant in the country, it did not come lightly.
She had to train as a till operator for over eight months hoping it could turn her life around in Zimbabwe’s crumbling economy as no one else was willing to employ her.
She studied merchandising anticipating a decent salary and an opportunity to take care of her siblings who looked up to her yet again no one was ready to have her packing their groceries.
The next stop was beauty therapy but again no one would have her touch them.
“Yes, I am a nurse by profession, but I fought hard to get where I am today. I studied till operating, merchandising and beauty therapy but neither of the professions got me a job, nevertheless that I was called for interviews several times.
“It takes courage for a person with albinism to go for an interview. Every time I was shortlisted for interviews, the interviewer would look stunned that I am albinistic.”
Instead of giving up, she has inspired other people with albinism by starting the Miss and Mr Albinism Peagant where she is the executive director of Miss Albinism Zimbabwe Trust (MAZT).
This was her way to fight back against the societal rejection she experienced during her job hunting and also to instill confidence in others living with albinism.
The pageant has taught some of its participants to shut out noise and stereotypes, encouraging them to live their lives with full confidence.
20 year old Ayanda Candice Sibanda, who is reigning Miss University Zimbabwe (UZ) is one such beneficiary.
Sibanda who is also current Miss Albinism is in her second year, studying law at UZ with high hopes for the future.
“The moment I say this it is like I am clenching, but genuinely I believe in myself and I have realized that I am equally capable like any other person next to me, i don’t mind stereotypes i deliberately ignore them, MAZT pageant taught us to be resilient,” she said.
Because of her traumatic experiences, Mudzimu said she will continue advocating for equity between the non-albinistic and albinistic people in Zimbabwe.
Mudzimu bases her advocacy on Section 22(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which dictates state institutions and all government agencies at every level, must acknowledge the rights of persons with disabilities either physically or mentally, they should be treated with respect and dignity.
“The law says we are equal but as people with albinism we often experience a lot of rejection, ostracism and stereotypes.
“We always encounter segregation socially. Living with albinism in Zimbabwe is like begging for life on planet earth, it is like we owe our lives to some people yet we are all equal,” Mudzimu said.
Besides the social torture people with albinism experience, they are already affected by a genetic problem as a result of being born without pigment.
According to various esteemed studies their eyesight is very sensitive and they are embedded with an extreme nearsightedness and farsightedness, resulting in blurred eyesight (astigmatism).
However, in Zimbabwe’s dire economy plus an intensified outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, people with albinism find themselves in a strenuous situation, struggling to fend for themselves and get indispensables such as sunscreen lotions and other medications.
“Naturally we have challenges accessing sunscreen lotions and other medications we need, the corona virus pandemic has made it harder since boarders have been closed due to strict covid-19 restrictions and the global lockdown,” said Yvonne Gumbo who is also living with albinism.
Living with albinism in Zimbabwe might not be easy but it is harder or even fatal across the continent due to stagnant and barbaric beliefs.
A lot of myths go around concerning people living with albinism, from harvesting their body parts for enriching ritual purposes to curing the HIV pandemic by engaging in sexual intercourse with them.
Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique are top of the list in countries that have recorded human rights violations, ritual murders and rape of people living with albinism.
Last year, the United Nations (UN) cautioned Malawi its 10 000 albinistic population was quickly facing extinction due to the continuous ritual murders.
In Zimbabwe it is estimated that about 70,000 people are albinistic, out of a population of about 15 million.