The Painful Reality Experienced By Dark Skin Girls
By Lydiah Nyanchwa
Christabel is just a young dark skin teenage girl in campus who is already facing discrimination due to her skin color.
At her age and in Kenya, she can earn a decent amount of cash from promotion jobs, which favors most university students.
Unfortunately for her, the effort to secure some cash through promotion jobs has proved to be futile. Her skin color, being the root cause of all these.
Facing setbacks when hunting for these brand ambassador hustle, has been something she has gotten used to. "Well, there was a time i was really broke and in school, so i had to secure myself a job to get some cash. I attended an interview with a marketing agency in Kisii. To my dissapointment, they were basing their choice on colour. Having been exposed to this kind of jobs, the interview was a walk over for me. I knew i had nailed it during the interview keeping my hopes high that i would be in for the job. What happened next was so shocking because i was actually cut off from the list!!" She recalls...
This encounter made her to start questioning her beauty and her self-worth. On trying to ask why she was cut off from the list, Christabel was silenced with these hurtful-diminishing words, "You know you are dark!! This job doesnt suit you!!" this derogatory comment killed her soul and mind leaving her broken. As a young teenage girl, just like that,, she lost her self-esteem and self-belief.
"I dont mean to say that dark skin girl are not beautiful, but in the society we are living in today, the lighter you are, the greater your chances in securing a job and the better opportunities are available for you!" Derrick Njue, who was a team leader for Trueblaqs' guiness activation at that time said.
Contrary to this, most people have argued that skin color doesn't count if you don't have the brains. "most dark skin ladies are ambitious and goal oriented with a rare touch of self confidence in what they do," says Brian Maraga, a student from JKUAT university in Kisii County.
Wendy Mboya, a dark skin lady who has faced the same humiliation wonders why these companies have a wrongful assumption about dark skin girls. "When the lights go off, everyone is dark!! What is left is the brain," she says, adding that choosing skin complexion over strength and capabilities doesn't add up considering the goals set aside which are to promote sales.
Most campus guys feel that the marketing companies are making dark skin girls feel disregarded for priotizing light skin girls when looking for brand ambassadors.
Struggles To Fit In
University girls have been conditioned to believe that they have to be light skinned to be a brand ambassador. This is forcing the dark skin girl to pursue the light toned skin.
Genevieve Mumbi (not her real name), a young teenage girl in the university of Nairobi, was forced to do whatever it took for her to break free from the humiliation due to her skin colour. She ended up bleaching her skin. "I visited a cosmetics shop where i was recommended to use a skin lightening lotion. I remember the harsh, irritating scent that smelled of ammonia. It made me so uncomfortable but what choice did i have," she explains. Her goal was to transform into what Kenyans call "rangi ya thao" a lighter-skinned person.
"I slowly saw the gradual transformation of my skin, which gave me a sense of jubilation. On the other hand, i felt the irritation effect on some parts of my body including my cheeks. They had an itchy feeling" She says.
"Being fairer has made me feel pretty and its easy for me to get most promotion jobs making my life and better tgough deep down am not comfortable because this is not the real me." She says with teary eyes adding that her body has yet to recover from years of exposure to the harsh chemicals found in bleaching creams.
To Genevievs' family, skin bleaching was nothing new to them since her mother had done it before. Her friends and schoolmates judged her and looked down upon her viewing her as a woman without dignity. "The same people who never appreciated my dark skin tone before," she says.
Around the globe, skin-lightening procedure and products are widely embraced. The main reason being to hope for acceptance in cultures that value the lighter complexion. The prizes include increased money making opportunities, more chances of getting a male partner, and being admired by the society and looked up to.
This is where skin bleaching comes in, many of which are from fake bleaching products. This is extremely dangerous. "Bleaching has negative effects which include damaging of the blood vessels, premature aging, peeling of the skin and ochronosin condition," says Dr. Pranar Mahendra Pancholi, one of the Kenyas' biggest dermatosurgeon.
He warns that skin bleaching is to be avoided at all cost because it may cause parmanent darkening of the skin, liver, kidney damage and skin cancer.
"Most people try lightening their skin, not bleaching. Skin bleaching is when one uses products which contain harmful chemicals such as hydroquinone, mercury, steroids, and chloride which destroy or block melanin from being produced."
He recommends that the safest and healthier way to lighten your skin is through glutathione injections.
In 2001, the Kenya Bureau Of Standards announced a product ban via a public Notice that outlawed the sale of cosmetics that have a bleaching effect on skin. Anyone selling the banned products would face prosecution as prescribed under the Standards Act. The banned cosmetics, including among several others, palmer's skin success fade cream, Cleartone, hydroquinone, oxidizing agents or hormonal preparations.
The Societies' Perception
Experts believe that the root cause of lightening dark skin color is more complicated than disliking their natural appearance. "The idea is that your skin tone is directly connected to some economic value or some social or political value." explains Doctor Rebeccah.
Geoffrey Wango, a psychologist says "The world is making people believe that being a light skinned means 'being beautiful', this is causing too much pressure pushing dark skin girls to opt for bleaching."
"Skin color is just the skin beat and the media is the most influential site when it comes to diminishing the dark skin girls. This is seen in adverts, music videos and movies in which fairer girls are featured as most elegant and beautiful!" says Dr. Geoffrey Wango.
"If you want to know its beautiful , paint it black," he adds.
Embracing The Dark Girl Child
Most dark girls in Kenya universities feel that its not hard not to internalize these messages that aim at degrading and humiliating them. "I had to make a decision. In the end, what i felt right for me was accepting myself for who i am and establishing my reputation based on my character and the merits of my achievements," Christabel notes.
"The skin color is just the skin beat. High self esteem and self-identification are the key things for the dark girl child to put in mind at all times," Dr Wango advices.
Most Kenyans feel that the media is the main source of this nortion meant to degrade the dark complexion.
In a bid to curb this wrongful perception, they demand that the media should start embracing the dark girl child by featuring them as elegant unbeatable beings in mudic videos, advertisrments and other TV commercials. Through this, the mentality and perception about dark skin girls will change.