KIGALI- standing in Nyabugogo car park, Meanwhile, I heard a familiar girl voice calling my name. She was a high school classmate. I hardly recognized her. For we used to call her “Mama Senegalese” because of her dark skin; but then her complexion has visibly bleached.

Recently, Rwanda has stood up against sales and distributions of banned skin lightening creams. different institutions (Ministry of health, Rwanda Food and Drug Authority, Rwanda Investigation Bureau and Rwanda Standards Board, among others) initiated an operation that seized 5,606 various products in one week.

In Africa, at least four in ten women bleach the skin, according to the World Health Organization and it resulted into millions of dollars in western industries.

The question is: why do some people use bleaching products that contain mercury and hydroquinone described as the ‘biological equivalent of paint remover’ in construction and may result in skin cancer?

Outside of her shop, Aisha Mpundu sits on the wood bench selling dried fish and Arabic seasoning powders, in Rango market.

Aisha grew up in Biryogo: a community where most people bleached their skin. She ended up imitating them. She doesn’t remember exactly when she started what she calls beautify her skin for the first time.

“You know to bleach the skin as a woman, is a secret to keep your husband,” she said smiling.

“He can’t go away from you because your beauty keeps charming him” she added.

Keza (name changed) did not bleach her skin, but has a cosmetic shop in Tumba, Huye. “I do not like skin bleaching.” She said it shaking her head.

“I can’t even accept it to my daughters, I love the nature of my skin, I sell bleaching products for a living.”

The desire for skin bleaching is not new case in Africa. It’s deeply rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism, says Charles Christopher, PhD. A senior lecturer in political psychology at university of the west indies.

“It’s about following standard that dictated by Eurocentrism, and it’s a response to hundreds of the years of colonial indoctrination that has been passed down through socialization since independence” Charles Christopher says.

Why do some people bleach their skins?

I wonder why do some black people chose to bleach their skin for years?

Black people who bleach their skin, they would instead love their skin color and fight for their dignity.

Ohm! May be I am becoming too rude to the skin lightening! may be Malcom x’s speech by saying “who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? who taught you to hate the color of your skin? to such extent you bleach to get like the white man”. in May 5 ,1962 was rude too.

If it’s just sink for beauty without any consequences. But what known is that hydroquinone and mercury is applied by killing off the melanin and kill all skin cells this leads to high averages of skin cancer.

Although skin bleaching remains controversial all over the world, but there are more factors that show how bleaching products are best avoided. If you are not convinced, in European countries, Australia, Japan and in Ivory Coast skin bleaching products are now history.

I think, if white color is super, black is also beautiful. If we do not hate ourselves, we should not hold the bomb and epidemic in hands by sinking for mercury and hydroquinone.

Let’s embrace our dignity and beauty of our black color skin.

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