A Rwandan albino woman has appeared in a music video, attracting widespread attention and helping alleviate the stigma of albinos in Africa. Claudine Mukarusine has described the video as a spark of light in a life filled with discrimination and fear.
Mukarusine is a 28-year-old graduate from the University of Rwanda with Albinism, a genetic condition that makes her hair, skin and eyes pale.
In parts of Africa, Albino body parts are considered to have black magic that brings luck and wealth. Their graves are dug up and bodies stolen, while the living face constant fear of abduction and murder.
But here in Rwanda, Mukarusine has become famous.
She shows a reporter a music video by Rhythm and Blues singer James Ruhumuriza, known as King James, which she acted in. The music video, for the song called "Igitekerezo," meaning "Ideas," shows King James serenading Mukarusine in the city and countryside.
In Rwanda it has gone viral.
She says this video played a very big role in her life because many people have come to realize that people with Albinism can do something that is good and appreciated.
The United Nations says nearly 100 albinos were killed in Tanzania alone in the past two decades, including at least 10 children whose bodies were found in January.
For Mukarusine, the song released in January is a spark of light in her dark days of fear that she too could be killed for being albino.
She says on the first day she heard about this threat, she cried a whole day in class. She used to cry also in her bedroom, it strongly affected her, Mukarusine said. She used to worry so much, wondering if she is going to die. But she couldn't share her sorrow with anyone, Mukarusine said, and it affected her studies.
A good message
Singer King James says he composed the song after watching accounts of albinos being killed in Rwanda's neighboring countries.
"That's when I decided, that I can feature her so that I can give a good message to people that even if they are albinos, they can do anything we can do, anything they want to do," he said.
Mukarusine works as a mentor at the National Union of Disability Organizations of Rwanda. She helps three groups of 300 people learn about saving money and accessing finance.
She has hope and confidence that her future will be good, and she will have a family, Mukarusine said. She will contribute in developing the lives of people with albinism and other disabilities in general, she says, as well as her family and country.
There are no accurate statistics on the number of albinos in Rwanda. But Mukarusine hopes her music video fame raises attention to their plight and helps remove some of the stigma and fear for other albinos as it did for her.
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