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The skin-bleaching, skin lightning creams and our future 'First Lady' Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai: our girl children will emulate

20 Mar 2016 at 14:47hrs | Views
The article written by Mrs. Tsvangirai commemorating the International Women's Day was really a masterpiece. I enjoyed reading the article and the content accorded the great Day for all global women and indeed she addressed the women of Zimbabwe equally, highlighting our unending problems regarding poverty, eminent famine because of the effects of El Nino, abuse of power resulting in scarce delivery of services in all social sectors, be it education or health. The gender based violence is the order of the day. Rural women are not in the national budget in most cases. She also set the theme for the 2016 International Women's Day as "Planet 50 – 50 by 2030: step up for Gender Equality.

These are very powerful words coming from a spouse of a President- in-Waiting, it is not a wonder that her article was well received in the social media; "a mother indeed, she is beautiful, very beautiful, "Save" (his totem) really made a good choice in his marriage." are some of the comments. More significant is one youthful comment coming from, I am sure, some young girl, she found Mrs. Tsvangirai so beautiful; she was going to emulate her when she grows up!

In a nutshell I doubt if I could have said it better than that article Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai wrote addressing the nation in her capacity as "may be" future First Lady of this great nation, Zimbabwe. I needed writing this article wait for a while to have her article get digested by the Zimbabwe political landscape, it was rich and very enlightening, and her article was an embodiment of what we women yearn for, to eliminate poverty and the need to empower our young women and girls.

From her photograph in Nehanda Radio, on the 8th of March, her beauty was obvious as she had this European wig on, her face-skin is obviously those that are enlightened by those very creams that are hazardous to health. I am really not sure in that very photo if her dress code was an "Indian Sari." I am saying this because she has come to political rallies with her hubby wearing "Indian Saris" not once but several times. Those apparent finger nails with exotic red cutex, one could tell she does not touch any washing pots at home, but she is some idol to admire, her beauty, by her hubby!

Now please, Nomazulu Thata, are you envious about the comments Mrs. Tsvangirai well received in her article? What's so wrong in bleaching your face, what's wrong in wearing a sari from India? What's wrong in wearing a European wig, an India Sari? While Nomazulu could wear it, but certainly not the spouse of a potential country's leader, Mrs. Tsvangirai. While Nomazulu could lead a private life and wear a sari, Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai does not have entirely a private life. Her image as a spouse to Richard Tsvangirai makes her different from many Zimbabwean women.

One would have thought that this old fashioned use of bleaching creams was done by our mothers in the 1960s to enlighten their faces so that they are as nearer to white people as was possible, it was accepted as positive, progressive and civilized, a definition of good. Women who used those creams were seen as prosperous and a well-to-do class of its own in the society. Our mothers, sister, aunties, friends relatives alike used "Ambi special" green one for women and red ones for men  the red one being stronger than the green one, to remove the black pigment that was inferior back then and really look like white people, white ladies. To have white skins back then, were cultural beauty standards in our society. The was some societal pressure put on women to whiten their skins just for acceptance sake.  

While wearing a wig is not harmful to health, bleaching has well-researched evidence about its severity and harsh in human health. There are some articles that highlighted the presence levels of mercury, steroids and parabens in almost all bleaching and whitening creams. Today these bleaching components are not only used in the face but taken orally as pills. The users of these bleaching capsules are to remove the whole pigmentation in the body and not the face alone and turn into a nearer white person. It is this refusing to be black and to think if ever I want to be seen as beautiful I must be white and not black.

The question is; is "Black" not beautiful? Did the Black Americans not tell us to say it loud "we are black and proud?" What is wrong in the minds or women who were once colonised and fought for their independence and won it. Why are we going back to some old notion of "white skin is a definition of good? White-skin colouring long passed it sale by date. It's no longer seen as "cultural beauty standard" anymore. Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai should know this and the implications it has on health, and the example she potrays as wife and mother on the psyche of the growing young girls who want to emulate her beauty as they now see it as "standard cultural beauty."

Another quick question is; is Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai different from the trigger pay girls or young women who posed for a photo with her husband that caused a loud cry in the social media a month ago? Yes, Mrs Elizabeth Tsvangirai is different from those young women because she is the wife a whole politician, a leader of a party, her hubby was once a Prime Minister for 5 full years and commands a formidable opposition that has shifted the matrix of the political landscape since the Millennium, and can still effect some change in coming elections. We are therefore genuinely worried about the image his wife is portraying to the nation, and to our younger, still growing girls.

How the creams and pills work
These lightning creams reduce and mostly eradicate the pigment called melanin that provides human skin colour and this process is called de-pigmentation.

Bleaching creams are a health hazard to women of all ages. The effective ingredients in these creams and pills are carcinogenic, cause skin, liver cancers. The users of these creams usually suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes later in their lives and kidney failures are also common illnesses related to them. The creams dry the skin resulting in pre-mature ageing of the skin. Severe skin infections do not heal quickly enough because the skin will have thinned. The ingredient called hydroquinone may cause untreatable discoloration. (Could have been the problem with Michael Jackson) An illegal ingredient in the skin-lightening creams and pills also contain traces of mercury, a metal that blocks pigment production, mercury is highly toxic as it accumulates in the body and can cause kidney failure.

Other severe effects of skin-lightning creams and pills are the swelling of the skin, increase in appetite causing obesity, severe birth effects on still to be born children, liver damage.

Pharmaceutical industry benefits
The pharmaceutical industry knows very well their products are severe and harsh to the users, but they produce them still and send them to developing countries because in Europe or America where they are produced are banned and many other western countries. America still sells the multi-billion products illegal as they will always find buyers, users are always available even in developed countries. Skin lighting industry is a very big multi-million dollar industry.

Social aspect
It is mostly the social pressures that make women fall into the skin-whitening cream use. Roots are found in Colonialization, in America, slavery may be the other component. The white skin is superior and the black skin is demonised as inferior all over the world even in Africa itself. Women are obsessed with beauty as we are systematically groomed to please men and make ourselves appealing to them when we are nearer to lighter skin, white.

(He muhle! umhlophe nke, litshebetshebe) (Akanaka kunge mwedzi wechirimo, mwanasikana chichekerwa seshereni, moyo wake unenge gumbeze rechando) All those are accolades that uphold and cherish whiteness in our own cultural languages. If you page down the article Mrs. Tsvangirai wrote the comments border on her beauty, this whiteness of her that is not very African but artificial in a way, coupled by the wig too that is very European. But the comments are full of beauty-praise mostly by men. Black men prefer light-skinned women; this puts pressure on women to bleach for acceptance. Could it be that the President of the Party of MDC-T, who is not so light skinned but black to very black put some pressure on her dear wife, Riza, to bleach?

It is very true, there an't many skin-lightning creams in the markets in Zimbabwe but it did not mean that Zimbabwean women do not use them anymore. Its either they are sold illegally or bought elsewhere. In all political parties in Zimbabwe there are these women with lights skins telling that there is some substance-abuse down the line, it is no longer the beauty they are born with. It's is very easy and obvious to know that a woman is bleaching her face. Riza (candidly called) is not alone in this dilemma at all. I have seen the Vice President, Thokozani Khuphe wearing a "Diana Spencer hat" right in the bushes of Nkai, at a funeral, surrounded by naturally dark, very humble women in the village.

The women's manifesto should dwell on the loss of identify in our societies. If a spouse of political leader wears a sari in a national event like a political rally, what does that tell us about loss of identity? Don't we have our rapers, vitenge-material maZambia, that have been accepted to symbolise an African dress code especially in political rallies. Are the rapers, vitenge  inferior again just like our black skins?  

Identity is that collection of attributes that define how we see ourselves. When attributes of our identity are externalised, we get controlled and feel that sense of worthlessness because we have become dependent on that external consideration, or external recognition. (She has to be nearer to a white woman ever because we are so groomed to think white is superior)

True freedom arises when we are not dependent on something outside ourselves. When we buy stuff we use or what we wear, be it sari from India or whatever, the source of that choice where these are produced, (an Indian sari or a European wig, skin-lightning creams) becomes your identity more than the product itself. This had led to complete loss of African identity: lo BUNTU bethu. Do we wonder when they say Africans are stupid? We do not have elaborate identity to be proud of.  

Our girl-children deserve better, we are the role models of our young generation. When we talk about girl empowerment, we should mean what we say. If a girl is going to envy and hope to emulate Mrs. Tsvangirai, her beauty, those figure nails full of red cutex, always photographed sitting near her hubby who obviously, is admiring her beauty. Then we are not serious about girl-empowerment. We must mean working hard in the fields, in hospitals, in industries and elsewhere; not "top modelling" body appearances.

There should be some national appeal to remove skin lightning creams and pills from the markets. Girls and young women should be educated over the risks of skin-lightning creams and pills. The society as a whole should get enlightenment too never to put pressure on their women and daughters and mistresses to look lighter than their own black natural skins. Black is beautiful and will always be. We sincerely ask Mrs. Elizabeth Tsvangirai to be political correct because young girls are watching her and emulating everything she does. It would be a shame if they emulated negative things about her. As a nation we need that evaluation in terms of identity crisis.

Source - Nomazulu Thata
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