When Wangui Njee’s classmate told her she had chalk on her eye, they tried to wash it off but it didn’t come off. Wangui’s parents were called and they took her to the doctor, who told her that she has vitiligo.
Wangui was only 14 years old and in high school when she learnt about her condition.
According to Everyday Health, vitiligo is a condition that causes the skin to lose its colour. Vitiligo is the result of the skin’s melanocytes being destroyed. Melanocytes are cells within the skin that produce melanin, which is responsible for giving the skin its color. It is generally thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly destroys its own melanocytes.
But for Wangui, the first thing she tells anyone who cares to know about her condition is that, “vitiligo is beautiful”, before she proceeds to tell them that “it is not contagious, not something that I can touch you or greet you and you get it”.
Sadly, in a world where few people understand what the condition is, Wangui has been called hurtful names.
“Someone shouted, is that a monkey walking? That’s one of the hardest I’ve had to deal with. I’ve also been told, is she burnt, is it witchcraft? Did she steal someone’s husband? Is it a bad omen? Is it a curse? Are you cursed?” she told BBC Africa.
In fact, as a result of the condition, she has lost people close to her. She recalls how she was dumped by her first boyfriend who couldn’t live with the fact that she has vitiligo.
“I had a boyfriend by that time and when I got it, two years later, he decided to dump me. I believe it was because of vitiligo because when he first met me, I didn’t have it, then later when we were getting to know each other, he realised “aah this girl is turning white” and he decided to leave me.”
Wangui is however, thankful for friends like Julie, who has had vitiligo since she was one and a half years old. Her mother discovered it and thought that her nannies were burning her with nappies. After firing five nannies, her mother took her to the hospital and found out that its vitiligo.
Both Wangui and Julie have had to change their lifestyle, like, wearing caps and sun shades to protect themselves from the sun. they also make use of sunscreen from the harshness of the sun.
“This friendship has made our bond stronger because we can talk about anything without fear.”
Watch her speak here
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