Taonga Phiri overcomes stigma, inspires others to love themselves

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IN a society that often prioritises conformity over individuality, it requires immense strength to overcome societal biases and embrace one’s authentic self.

Taonga Phiri, an extraordinary young woman, has faced but triumphed over the challenges associated with being an albino.

According to a census conducted in 2010, there were more than 25,000 people living with albinism in Zambia, and the number has possibly increased by now.

Albinism is a genetic condition that causes people to have little or no pigmentation in their skin, hair, and eyes.

As the world commemorates international albinism awareness day, under the theme: ” inclusion is strength,” Kalemba highlights Taonga’s journey.

Taonga’s path of self-acceptance and resilience serves as a source of inspiration for many, highlighting the significance of embracing one’s distinctiveness.

As the eldest among four siblings, Taonga had a challenging childhood marked by exclusion and misunderstanding.

Children of her age avoided her, mistakenly believing that her condition could be transmitted and that she brought misfortune.

As Taonga grew older, the stigma surrounding her condition grew stronger.

People openly mocked her appearance as she passed by, causing significant emotional strain.

However, instead of allowing these experiences to crush her spirit, Taonga discovered strength within herself and gradually began to accept and embrace her unique characteristics.

With newfound confidence, Taonga acknowledged that her appearance was just one aspect of her identity, refusing to let it define her value.

She pursued her studies in special education and became an advocate for albinism awareness and mental health.

Taonga’s intellect, confidence, and contagious sense of humour make her an extraordinary individual, as she uses her platform for albinism advocacy.

Furthermore, she possesses a captivating singing voice that enchants everyone who hears it.

Recently on her Facebook page, Taonga wachiuta, someone asked her how she had overcome many criticisms and negative words in society towards albinism.

“Criticism and negativity will always be there. You can’t overcome criticism or negativity. I always ignore negativity and criticism. It (was not) easy years back but as at now, I think I’ve learned to do so,” she answered.

“I also ensure I surround myself with positivity, be it from people but especially myself.”

Despite the government’s putting up many steps to protect people with albinism, including passing a law that makes it a crime to discriminate against or harm people with albinism, there are still incidences of crimes against them.

Recently, there were reports from Western Province by the police of some criminals trying to kidnap young boys living with albinism so that they could be sold.

According to the Red Cross, witchdoctors pay up to US$75,000 for a complete set of albino body parts.

People with albinism also face the daily struggle to meet the high cost of sunscreen and other protective gear to protect themselves from the sun so as to prevent skin cancer.

All these challenges have made Taonga become strong, with the aim of living a better life.

By Moses Makwaya

Kalemba June 13, 2023

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