Albinism is a genetic anomaly characterized by a lack of pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair. The pale white skin of albinos is not suited for the African sun and is more prone to sunburn and skin cancer.
Because they are 'whites' born of black parents, albinos face discrimination every day and struggle to find love.
By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, Yaoundé
Every Sunday, a dozen albinos get together to sing in a neighbourhood of Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. For them, singing is a form of therapy that helps them cope with the stigma they face.
“I experience stigmatisation every single day of my life. When I take a taxi, at the market and in all public places, people have strange looks. Some poke fun at me with phrases like: ‘the white girl with cat’s eyes’,” says Nelly Kemezong, a 24-year-old albino woman.
Emmanuel Koum, 29, says how difficult it is for him to find a girlfriend: “I’ve met a few girls who told me that their families are against them dating an albino man. In fact, in most families, the idea of anyone having an albino partner is hard to accept,” he says.
Emmanuel explains that “in some cultures, being albino is considered a bad omen or a curse. So people tend to believe that someone who gets married to or even dates an albino will never be happy. The family will try everything to break the relationship.”
What is most surprising is that albinos themselves practise discrimination against albinos.
“I don’t want to marry an albino man. I’ve never loved one. Albino men are too soft, too passive and not enterprising enough,” Nelly explains.
“As an albino, I’ve had many problems both with my health and in my social life. If I marry another albino, our children will be albinos and it will only add to these problems and perpetrate the albino race,” adds Sylvie Nana, another albino woman.
Emmanuel Koum who mentors many young albinos, says the lack of drive among albinos has psychological roots. “Some albinos anticipate the social stigmatization and prefer not to fall in love to avoid disappointment, ” he reveals.
No love life
Because of the stigma, very few young albinos manage to have a love life. Nelly has been in a relationship for the past few months. Her boyfriend is African and all is well. Emmanuel, on the other hand, is single like half of the young members of the singing group.
His plea: “Albinism is not a curse. It’s only a biological anomaly that does not affect a person’s emotions, abilities or intelligence. It only affects the colour of the skin. So let’s stop the stigmatization and allow albinos to have a normal life like everyone else.”