Albino woman overcomes stigma, discrimination

February 04, 2022
Nichola Levine was called names such as ‘Dundus’ and ‘Ghost’ when she was growing up.
Nichola Levine was called names such as ‘Dundus’ and ‘Ghost’ when she was growing up.
Nichola Levine
Nichola Levine

Before age 16, Nichola Levine, who lives with albinism, said that she felt uncomfortable with her condition and was often ridiculed.

"People on the road always call me 'Dundus', or 'Ghost' because of my colour," said Levine, who resides in Waterhouse, St Andrew.

"People used to say I am like this now because my mother had sex while she was seeing her menses. They used to say all sort of stuff which used to make me feel bad. So I didn't like myself growing up. I used to ask my mother 'Why am I like this?' But she would always say I am no different from the other kids I was playing with. It was hard for me to see it back then." While grateful for a supportive family, Levine admitted she was depressed at times.

"I used to feel down a lot of times, like I am a nobody, because other kids always make fun of me and sometimes acted as if I was scorned," she said. Albinism is a disorder that presents with little or no melanin production, which results in either little or no colour to skin, eyes or hair.

The United Nations (UN) has said that persons with albinism face more severe forms of discrimination and violence in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of the general population are relatively dark-skinned.

"Because some believe that they are magical beings or ghosts, they mutilate or even kill them, so their body parts can be used for witchcraft rituals," a UN report said.

While there are reports of discrimination against albinos in Jamaica, Levine, thankfully, has not been on the receiving end of violent attacks. Her mother, Jacqueline Buchanan-Manning, noted, however, that when Levine was a child, she was often bombarded with weird reactions from persons.

"From the moment she was born, the nurse looked surprised. Growing up with her was always an event. One day while going with her, I stopped to talk to a friend and she was there shaking her up in my hand. She think say she was a baby doll. But when I said she is my baby she was very surprised, because Nicky had really pink lips and as you can see her skin is very pale," she said.

Buchanan-Manning stressed that Levine, the first of her four children, was not treated differently at home.

"Whenever she came home and tell me what some of the kids would say to her, I would tell her to ignore them. Dem call her all sorts of name, but when people don't understand they put their spin on everything to suit their own understanding," the mother said.

Levine said she started to grow in confidence when she began to read up on her condition.

"So that helped me a lot to deal with my insecurities over the years. People were bleaching their skins to get my colour," she quipped.

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