Nalwoga uses fashion to fight stigma among vitiligo patients

A woman living with vitiligo walking the runway during the fashion show in Kampala recently. Photo | Esther Bridget Nakalya

What you need to know:

  • Most patients with vitiligo report feeling embarrassed, which leads to low self-esteem and social isolation.

Vitiligo is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose pigment or colour. The condition is believed to have spiritual roots and its treatment is always restricted to traditional medicine and soothsaying

Ms Cerinah Nalwoga Kasirye, the founder of Trillion Looks Store, says vitiligo is painless psychological torture. Most patients with vitiligo report feeling embarrassed, which leads to low self-esteem and social isolation.

As a way of fighting stigma among vitiligo patients, Nalwoga uses fashion projects as an artisanal social enterprise to empower them both economically and psychologically.

"We empower young people in the creative sector and do not discriminate against them regardless of their appearance but rather give them a platform to shine," she said.

Ms Nalwoga adds that her main role is to connect the artisans to local fashion designers assisting them to market and mass produce of their products with the goal of preserving the cultural heritage of artisanal products and promoting economic empowerment, mostly for persons living with vitiligo.

"We create awareness of these projects; give training to women groups in making handicrafts such as bags made out of banana fibre and raffia by women in Bigodi, Fort Portal."

Ms Cerinah Nalwoga Kasirye with Ms Ellen B. Masi

In recognition of the project's role in entrepreneurship as well as contributing to the country's development, the Public Affairs Counsellor at the US Embassy in Uganda, Ellen B. Masi said: "We will continue supporting the SMEs in their quest to professionalise access capital and grow in order to be able to create employment and transform lives."

Recently, the world commemorated Vitiligo Day, and this year's edition resonated with persons suffering from the condition in a bid to break the stigma.

This was showcased by models suffering from the condition of vitiligo walking the runway in outfits that are truly African-inspired.

The Afri art and fashion runway show happens annually. During the weekend, the recently concluded project showcased the country's cultural heritage and creativity by Ugandans as well as an art exhibition.