Zintle Precious Phiva is a 31-year-old woman who lives with albinism, a condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. She grew up in Zwelisha, a rural settlement in Kabokweni, in Mpumalanga province. She comes from a family of five siblings, and as the eldest, she is expected to look after her siblings. However, being unemployed means she sadly can’t provide for her family. And living with albinism has made it hard for Zintle to land a job, or even to start a business.
“For now, I am doing nothing. For people living with albinism, it is not easy to get a job. Sometimes it’s like we have to struggle just to be alive. When you go for a job interview they will start asking questions like how are you going to do this job because of your eyesight?. Sometimes even say hurtful things to you,” Zintle shares her pain with Rise N Shine.
According to a study conducted by BMC International Health and Human Rights 1 in 2000 people in sub-Saharan Africa live with albinism. Health issues people living with albinism struggle with include suffering from a permanent visual impairment, and sensitive skin. As if that is not enough, they have to contend with discrimination due to their skin colour. They are often a subject of scorn for many people, which is influenced by erroneous myths.
Zintle agreed: “There are too many challenges but because of the way I was raised, maybe that’s the thing that gives me strength. My mother used to tell me how beautiful I am. She used to say I shouldn’t internalize what other people say. Like when you are walking down the street, some people would start calling you names. They start saying too many mean things, so I ignore all that,” she revealed.
Zintle’s career aspiration was to become a self-employed chef and to pursue acting. She went to school to learn how to cook, and did financial management but unfortunately couldn’t complete her qualification due to her mother’s passing.
She cautioned parents with children with this condition to avoid keeping their children indoors. “The problem begins when your parents are hiding you. The moment you go out is when you meet different people. When people see you for the first time they will start calling you names and say bad things about you because they don’t know you. I think when you are a mother you don’t have to hide your child. When you love your own child it will be easy for other people to
show that child love. That child will grow up in a community where everyone knows that child,” she said.
International Albinism Awareness Day is commemorated on the 13th of every year. Nothing has changed in South Africa. There are still no job opportunities for people like Zintle, despite having a chef qualification and acting talent. As a member of the Mpumalanga Albinism Association Zintle wishes the government can access many opportunities.
“There are no opportunities for people living with albinism. Because there is too much discrimination, they will tell us we can’t walk in the sun. If I can meet the president I would ask him to give us a chance to showcase our talent. We are capable of doing so many great things. Some of us can sing, dance, and do other amazing things. I would ask the president to give us a stage.”
The best advice Zintle has ever received is not to give up in life. “I don’t have to prove myself to people. I have to know myself, and where I want to go. I have to hold on to that belief and run with it. I don’t have to allow myself to be put down because of my skin. I don’t like it when people say bad things about us or point fingers at us. I wish I could get a chance to prove that I can do many things, ”she added. Zintle unwinds by watching TV shows such as Isibaya.