Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) last year made history when it crowned for the first time Mr and Miss Albinism.
The creation of the office of Mr and Miss Albinism was aimed at showing the country that persons with albinism have all what it takes to excel in different disciplines, including arts.
Mr and Miss Albinism – Bennet Phunyanya and Chikondi Kanjadza have been on the ground initiating different projects despite having inadequate funds.
And recently, they came out with a media campaign through social media known as Kukongola Kowala which will run for the whole month of June.
The campaign was launched by Mr and Miss Albinism as regards to this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day theme ‘Made to Shine’.
Miss Albinism said most of the stories that people hear about persons with albinism are usually negative and that through the social media awareness campaign, they were determined to give a platform to persons with albinism to show their various talents as well as their beauty.
“We thought about having this campaign due to the fact that it would be difficult to have an outdoor awareness campaign due to Covid-19 pandemic,” Kanjadza said.
She said with technology moving at a fast pace, they thought of embracing online platforms such as Facebook to reach out to the masses.
“We have so far seen a positive response from the general public and from people in diaspora. With more resources, we intend to be doing this just to show that we all have a right to live and that we are not different,” she said.
Kanjadza said they have been keeping statistics of people, who have taken part in the campaign.
“We are very sure that the campaign has helped and continues to help change the mindset of people who have a negative attitude towards persons with albinism,” she said.
Kanjadza said their initiative has also helped motivate other persons with albinism to come out.
“We have persons with albinism, who are talented but they have not been active but with the campaign, we have seen them coming out. This is also in line with Mr and Miss Albinism offices to help unearth talent among others. We saw last year during the Mr and Miss Albinism, persons with albinism coming out but without the platform probably they would not have done that. What we want is for persons with albinism to believe in themselves that they are capable of rising to the top as long as they believe in themselves,” she said.
Kanjadza also said that they realise that there were some persons with albinism, who have no access to social media platforms and so they also managed to release a song titled ‘Made to Shine’.
“This is a song which basically has the message that celebrates persons with albinism with regards to the theme of this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day ‘Made to Shine’,” she said.
The song features five artists including Kanjadza and the others are Gophyl G, Charles, Hilda and Taqwa.
Kanjadza, who is currently pursuing her studies at University of Malawi – Chancellor College in Zomba, said through her own talents, she has also managed to strike deals with various players citing a recent partnership with fashion house – Kliffculture which has made her an ambassador.
“I am so excited with this move and through this, I hope to also motivate other models especially persons with albinism to come out and strike such deals. There is potential out there only that some of them need to be encouraged. It feels great to know that there are people or companies like Kliffculture that actually support the works and initiatives I am doing in the society and I am ready to work with different organisations out there,” she said.
Phunyanya said the project was important to persons with albinism and that it will help bring self-confidence.
“Many people with albinism in Malawi as well as Africa look down upon themselves because of the kind of stigma and discrimination they receive, this programme will help in motivating persons with albinism and help them focus on their beauty and achievements,” he said.
Unlike his brother Godfrey popularly known as Gophyl G, who is a musician and is well known, Phunyanya only came to the limelight after being crowned Mr Albinism.
“I contested for Mr Albinism because I wanted to challenge fellow persons with albinism that we are capable and that we can excel in every discipline provided we believe in ourselves and also work hard,” he said.
Phunyanya graduated at University of Malawi –Chancellor College where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Media for Development.
“It has not been easy to be where I am today, I have had to experience different challenges that could have made me not continue with my studies but God was on my side and He kept on encouraging me,” he said.
Phunyanya said Kukongola Kowala campaign was also there to act as an inspiration not only to persons with albinism but everyone that we were all created in the image of God.
But since he took over the office of Mr Albinism, is there progress?
“We have been doing great although we have failed to fulfil some of the projects due to inadequate funds. We have numerous projects but we are failing to implement them because we have no funds. So, this serves as an opportunity to ask for well-wishers to help us as we serve persons with albinism in the country,” Phunyanya said.
He said through the platform they would also want to sensitise people to stop abductions and killings of persons with albinism.
“We want a country where we will not hear anything to do with abductions and killings. We keep on saying this that we are all human beings and so we need to show love to each other. We hope to extend this Kukongola Kowala project. We selected the month of June as an awareness month but we are looking at doing it more and more and we believe by doing that, we will see more change,” Phunyanya said.
While Mr and Miss Albinism have used their offices to show the beauty and talent of persons with albinism, musician Lazarus Chigwandali, who is based in Lilongwe, has also taken it upon himself to use music to showcase the best of persons with albinism.
“Voices have to come from different angles to show that persons with albinism have potential. So there is me as a musician, there is Mr and Miss Albinism and others as well. There is power in unity,” Lazarus said.
Apart from music, Lazarus, who has been working with artists such as Johan Hugo, Esau Mwamwaya, Spiwe Zulu and Clem Kwizombe, has also managed to produce a movie titled Lazarus, which tells his story.