Reigning Miss Albinism Zimbabwe Ayanda Candice Sibanda is working to curb stigma and discrimination of persons with albinism.
Her positive attitude and no-nonsense approach towards prejudice is helping her succeed in her career and life in general. This has driven her to continue pushing for the end of deceptive cultural beliefs that have tarnished the appearance of albinism in the African society for centuries.
Sibanda first got recognition in the modelling industry in 2018 when she won the most promising model gong at the Summer Fashion and Style awards.
In 2019 she was crowned Miss Albinism Zimbabwe and was second runner-up in the Miss Teen Zimbabwe. The 19-year-old law student is set to represent Zimbabwe at the Miss Continents to be held in Las Vegas, the United States, in July.
Her participation is a virtue unless the organisers decide to defer the prestigious event in compliance with the pronouncement by the World Health Organisation declaring the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. However, if the coronavirus outbreak is contained in all the affected countries before long, Miss Continents will commence as planned.
With all these major platforms at her disposal, she is in a stronger position to influence change. At this point in time, she can break cultural barriers crippling persons with albinism.
"We have old cultural myths that have existed for a very long time. It is believed that people with albinism do not die and there is this misconception that our body parts can be used to heal chronic diseases," Sibanda said.
"We have stereotypes that say we are not as equally capable as other people. I have made it my job as an activist to spread a message that we should refuse to be defined by unjustified harmful cultural conspiracy beliefs.
"I am saying as persons with albinism we should not allow someone else to dictate to us. Like all humans, we have the freedom of expression, let's utilise it. I am advocating for change in society and the world at large."
Growing up was not ordinary for her, Sibanda was asked questions she could not answer about her skin pigment. She spent half of her childhood looking for answers. She faced a lot of discrimination as well as stigma, the harsh circumstances pushed her to mature at a very young age and learn to stand up for herself.
"I discovered in primary school that I was different when other kids started asking me questions like, 'Are your parents white? Why is your brother black?'
"My teachers would make me sit in front because I was short-sighted and then I started questioning all these occurrences. It was painful being the only child in a school of 1 500 pupils who looked different, and people made fun of me.
"At a very young age I had children of my age asking me questions like, 'What happens to you when you die? When will you turn black again? What happens if I beat you? Why is it you and your sister are different from the rest of your family, are you from another planet?' I had sisters and mothers who told their children and siblings not to play with me. I had relatives who pretended to like me. I was overwhelmed with confusion, I never really knew who honestly cared about me."
Sibanda acknowledges that being different has made her understand that not everyone will tolerate her and be accommodating. She has accepted that there are people who will look at her twice and judge her not based on her capability, but her skin colour. That is why given an opportunity, she works twice as hard than the person next to her because she always has two walls to break.
"I have told myself that I am equally capable as the next model. Whichever designer, photographer or promoter who will exercise prejudice will miss out on an opportunity to work with this wonderful, hardworking individual. I have also made it a point to bring out my very best when I get a modelling gig", she said.
Now Sibanda is an extraordinary young woman who is strong, authentic, driven and hardworking. Besides modelling, she is the founder of the Ayanda Candice Foundation and an English Access Micro-scholarship programme alumni. She is also a motivational speaker, humanitarian activist and a girl advocate.
Sibanda is also vocal about the emancipation of female voices and believes given a chance, women have so much potential to make this world a blissful place for the human race.
Grant Moyo is a prolific writer and innovative media personality. Follow him on Twitter: @TotemGrant