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Dynamic role models speak out

12 July 2017

By Regina-Mary Ndlovu

The three personalities featured here all have albinism and are breaking the silence of the struggles that persons with albinism are facing in our society- by raising awareness and campaigning to
stop discrimination and the killing of persons with albinism. Based in Johannesburg and Pretoria, these stars share their stories, determination and victory over many odds.

  • Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi: 29, producer, presenter and actress
  • Simba Gozo: 30, model, former radio show co-host at Cliff Central and entrepreneur
  • Anneline Mathiba: 27, customer service agent at OR Tambo International Airport, actress, model and Miss South Africa United Nations 2017 finalist

1. HOW WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP? HOW WERE YOU TREATED IN THE COMMUNITY AND AT SCHOOL?

Simba Gozo

Growing up was hard as most people fear what they do not understand. Therefore I was teased and bullied which led to me deciding to either be bullied or bully back. I chose to bully back. I learnt to fight back from a young age.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi

I honestly had quite a fun and carefree childhood. As a young girl with albinism in my township I was always the centre of attention and I loved it. At home I was treated as a special child and my family gave me all the attention I needed. When I wasn’t at home I always got the stares and small children always wanted to know if I was a doll or white as I had big curly blonde hair. So the attention was always there. I enjoyed it and grew up to appreciate it. Now I always look my best because I know someone is always looking at me. So I always give them something to look at.

Anneline Mathiba

Growing up, I was the egg of the family. I was appreciated, mostly by mum and dad. The community knew me and they understood me and nothing happened to me on the street while they were there. They protected me.

At school other kids were sceptical around me. Others said, “Touch her hair so that your mother does not have a child like her”. But still, my family backed me up. They told me who I was and where I was from and how beautiful I am. That mattered to me and because of that foundation, no one out there is able to break it. A tree is known by its fruit. Thank you to my family – I have strength for a lifetime. I’m proud to have albinism.

2. WHAT WERE YOUR DREAMS AND GOALS WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG AND HAVE YOU ACHIEVED THEM?

Simba Gozo

My dreams and goals as a young boy were to be a successful businessman and entertainer. Some would say I have been successful but I keep moving the goal post to keep challenging myself to do better.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi

I always wanted to present and act for television. I used to practice presenting in front of my mirror at home. I and my cousins used to pretend to be on Jam Alley and I was always V Mash each time we played.

I have not yet arrived at the stage I want to be at in my career. All the hard work I have put in is only to lay a solid foundation. I am yet to see the change I am working towards. I have been in the industry for five years now and the entire five years I’ve spent paving my way in the industry as there are no roles for girls such a me, and there definitely was no one in the news department with albinism before I started working with the channel in 2013.

Anneline Mathiba

I always wanted to be a veterinarian as a little girl I didn’t know anything about modelling. I loved to help animals and to take care of them.

3. WHAT IS ALBINISM IN YOUR OWN WORDS AND UNDERSTANDING?

Simba Gozo

Albinism to me used to be a hardship I carried, something I hated due to all the bullying I received as a child, all the discrimination and teasing from others. I have come a long way from hating myself to loving myself a lot. Some people say I love myself too much – I do not care. Albinism has taught me that we all are faced with challenges which we have to overcome to fulfill our true purposes in Life. Albinism is a gift I cherish. It has made me a stronger person.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi

It’s simply lack of melanin that causes no pigmentation of the skin and hair.

Anneline Mathiba

Albinism to me is unique. It’s my own kind of beauty. It’s a very special shade of black – my own tone. Albinism to me is beautiful and I’m proud of it.

4. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE YOUTH?

Simba Gozo

If anyone looks up to me as a role model, I will say this: Do not allow anyone to dictate your dreams and aspirations as your dream is just your actions and decisions, so believe in the beauty of your dream.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi

You teach people how to treat you. You are not who or what they call you BUT who you answer to. Be different and embrace it. Being typical is boring. Be you and stand out.

Anneline Mathiba

No matter the challenges that you encounter with every breath of fresh air that you breathe every day, stay in school get an education first and then pursue your goals and dreams. But you need an education first to get to communicate with the world out there and, most importantly, make your parents proud.

5. WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?

Simba Gozo – My Plans for the future will be revealed soon.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi – A lot of projects. I cannot reveal as yet.

Anneline Mathiba – To be a full-time model, actress, TV show presenter and a DJ for a radio show. The sky is the limit for me too.

6. CAN ALL VOICES OF ALBINISM TOGETHER TAKE YOU CLOSER TO FREEDOM FOR ALL?

Simba Gozo

For all to have freedom, all must help as this is an education process that needs to be taught at grassroots level from a young age. Children to need understand we are not all the same in appearance, as well as that we are faced with different challenges. We are one but we are not packaged the same.

Puleng Cassidy Molebatsi

I believe it’s possible. First and most important, people with albinism need to understand their rights. There is a lot of empowerment that’s needed for people with albinism. They need to be brave enough to fight and challenge the myths and stereotypes.

Anneline Mathiba

We need to educate Africa. We need to educate those in rural areas and in townships. We need to teach people that we are human beings like everyone else. We do not have any magical powers. There is nothing special about a person with albinism. We need to play a big role in the awareness of persons with albinism not only on a marked calendar – June 13th [International Albinism Awareness Day] or September Albinism Month – but we need to speak out every day and teach people about humanity just like the history of our struggle has taught us and gave us this freedom.

Information changes situations. Hopefully, our great, dynamic role models are just the inspiration for others to let their voices be heard. Our future generation needs role modes. We are all part of the battle. Even if we are on different battlefields, all our voices together represent the future.

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