Owning her skin


Vitiligo lady talks love and acceptance

When people speak of beauty, they often focus on the physical appearance, paying particular attention to the skin.

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For many women, having any marks or apparent blemishes can cause great stress and even lead to depression unless they accept the condition and learn to live with it positively.

This rings true for 23-year-old Mompoloki Lady Seloka, a Gumare native who for the past ten years have been living with vitiligo, a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to lose pigment.

This vitiligo public educator, content creator and events organizer sits down with The Voice’s, FRANCINAH BAAITSE and tells us about her struggles with acceptance, overcoming the bullies and learning to embrace her condition as well as encouraging others to do the same

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Thank you for your time, kindly tell us what you do for a living?

I do Events Management for a wide variety of clientele including corporate, parties, weddings among others.

I am a Vitiligo activist at heart, and actively campaigning on social media including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok as Vitiligo Lady.

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When did you start campaigning and what prompted it?

I started in 2020 after accepting my condition.

On these platforms I raise awareness by sharing my stories as a motivation to others.

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I know if I have gone through difficult times as I have, many other people out there with the same condition are suffering as well.

So I educate the public about this condition and most importantly I give support to people that reach out to me for that purpose.

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How long have you been living with vitiligo and how has it affected your life?

I have been living with vitiligo for the past ten years and it has been a tough journey with a lot of stigma, depression, name calling at school and also in the community to a point where I wanted to leave school.

I once tried to donate blood but due to my vitiligo I was denied the opportunity but the truth is someone with this condition can donate blood and there is no health risk in that.

How did that make you feel?

It led me to have low self esteem.

It still affects me negatively.

Living with vitiligo is not an easy thing, I cannot spend more time exposed to the sun and I cannot eat spicy food as they cause inflammation.

How did you overcome the negativity from community?

I accepted my condition because I realized the community was not aware of the causes or what exactly it was and I took it upon myself to do public education on this subject.

I believe everyday has to be Vitiligo Awareness Day.

This past weekend you organised a vitiligo campaign in Maun, tell us a bit about that?

Vitiligo is commemorated annually on 25th June in honour of late pop star, Michael Jackson, who interestingly had vitiligo and people thought he bleached his skin.

We had an Awareness walk on the 24th and celebrated the day under the theme, ‘Acceptance. Treatment. Love.’

This was a way of continuing raising awareness and helping those living with vitiligo to accept and love themselves the way they are.

You have a Facebook following of over 6, 200; from interactions and those reaching out to you for moral support, how would you describe a life of people living with vitiligo in Botswana?

It is clear that in as much as we preach to be a loving and compassionate nation, there is a lot of stigma in our midst.

People living with vitiligo, including young children, are being shunned.

They are forced into depression and to hide from communities because of the way they are being looked at.

People don’t want to shake hands with them or share food with them.

In fact, I remember when I was at school a student asked me if my skin was not peeling off into the food!

The support system right from homes is not enough hence we have so many people struggling with acceptance.

Sometimes they reach out, we book them for an appointment with a dermatologist and or psychologist and they don’t show up because they are just too scared of being seen in public.

They are thrown into self pity, they try wearing make-up, but there is only so much that make-up can cover hence we need louder voices and space to discuss these issues.

What advice can you give to guardians and families of children living with vitiligo?

They should first accept their children’s condition.

That way it will be easier for the children to face the community, to stand up against bullies at school and build self-confidence from a younger age.

Well said! Besides content making and vitiligo campaigns, what do you do to relax?

I love travelling on safari excursions, experiencing new cultures, flower farming and cooking.

You must have plenty of childhood memories, which ones can you share with us?

I remember that when I was at primary school and junior school, I would participate in every single activity because it made me happy and my Agriculture teacher at junior school called me ‘makgonatsotlhe’.

It made me become a stronger person and the vitiligo activist that I am today.

So are you dreaming of being a farmer someday?

Yes, of being an all round farmer but especially flowers, vegetables, chickens and small stock.

If you were to be a President for one day, what changes would you make?

The very first thing will be to put Vitiligo Day on the calendar so that it is given equal importance as other international health related commemorations.

I would further ensure that Medical Aid is accessible and free to people living with vitiligo as well as free access to suncreen lotions and medication for such people.

Who is your support system?

My mom, fiancé – can’t wait to call him husband (laughs) – Dr Sekgoma Segaetsho, a dermatologist at Scottish Livingstone hospital, Dr Hanna Lecha, my favourite vitiligo activist, Gladys Leburu, my family are my biggest supporters in no particular order and generally communities in Maun where I operate.

The list is endless as I have many others supporting on social media.

Any last word?

I can call on the community to accept everyone as they are as we were all made in the image of God.

My spots have taught me to wear them proudly because no matter what people say or do, at the end of the day my patches don’t make me any lesser than who I am on the inside and I live a normal life like any other person.

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