BY Amy Fallon
Whenever Liz Ayebare, a nine-year-old Ugandan girl, sees dolls, they never look like her.
Liz was born with albinism, a genetic condition which means she lacks melanin, a chemical in our bodies that gives our skin, eyes and hair a certain colour. Liz, like many other albino people, has pale skin, greyish eyes and blonde, fuzzy hair.
The condition affects about one in 17,000 people around the world, but in some countries in Africa, including Uganda, one in 5,000 are albino, according to the Ugandan charity Albinism Umbrella.
The condition can put people at great risk of sunburn and may affect their vision. But some albino people are also treated very differently from non-albinos and even attacked in countries like Tanzania, a neighbour of Uganda’s.
“Life’s hard for them,” says Liz’s mother, Scovia Nsiimenta, who has two other albino children aged four and 10 months, and another aged six who is not an albino. “They are discriminated in schools, in the community.”
As a result, many parents stop their albino children from going out in public.
The frizzy effect
But now one woman in South Africa is trying to make others understand that albinos are just like everyone else – through dolls.
Dollmaker Mala Bryan has created an albino doll called Alexa, who, with her blonde frizzy hair, looks a bit like Liz.
Ms Bryan says it is important that dolls represent everyone.
“Hopefully, this will help children play and learn to love and understand people of all races,” she says.
Back to normal
Alexa took two years to design and Ms Bryan says the feedback so far has been “absolutely amazing”.
“Children and adults are loving the dolls,” she says.
Liz also approves of Alexa. “I would like to play with her,” she says.
Olive Namutebi, an albino woman who began Albinism Umbrella in 2016, likes the idea of an albino doll.
“Why not? If people see this doll it may mean for some that when they do meet an albino person in real life this will not be a new thing,” she says.