A beautiful and dedicated nurse is fighting back against so called ‘beauty standards.’
Enam Heikeens Honya suffers from rare skin condition vitiligo.
This is where pale white patches develop on the skin. The condition is caused by the lack of melanin, a pigment in the skin.
For Enam the white patches cover 92% of her body. But the 24-year old is determined to break the stigma and discrimination that comes with the condition.
The nurse from Ho in the Volta Region is now a vitiligo ambassador in her hometown of Ghana.
But she admits it has been a long and arduous journey to embrace the person she sees in the mirror.
When Enam was growing up she didn’t know what to make of the white patches that were spreading all over her body.
‘Every time we went to the hospital, the doctors said there was nothing wrong with me. But this ‘thing’ kept spreading”, Enam told Pulse.com.
‘Growing up wasn’t easy…People really stigmatised. You have to go to school and people will not even like to talk to you.” she added.
‘You go to an occasion and people wouldn’t like to shake hands with you. Even your course mates wouldn’t like to sit beside you or go to lunch break with you.’
It led to Enam going down extremely dark paths and she even contemplated suicide.
‘It was something depressing for me and there came a point in time when I wanted to commit suicide; to just end it all there.’
‘Fortunately for me it couldn’t happen. I have tried it three times just to get rid of myself, knowing that people don’t accept me.”
‘The last one was just a miracle because I was just at the verge of doing it and I got saved.’
‘And [that experience] even led me to know more about vitiligo, to learn and research more about it. I think it was breakthrough for me.’
Enam decided to start training as a nurse – seeing it as a way to educate people about her skin condition.
‘After senior high school, I decided that since vitiligo is health related, why don’t I go and learn about health?’
‘You get to meet your patients asking questions [about vitiligo] and you have the opportunity to explain it to them.’
‘It’s one awesome feeling. Though some patients really get weird with the questions.’
‘But I believe it is just one way of telling them that no matter your skin color, you can be who you want to be.’
Enam added that some children who visited the hospital ended up crying when they saw her for the first time.
‘Some kids get scared when I am attending to them at first. But by the end of the day, some of the children even like to touch my skin.’
Enam’s life changed further when a chance meeting led to her meeting with the campaigner Love Violent (also living with vitiligo.)
She introduced Enam to the world of advocacy through the Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF Ghana).
‘What I really hope to achieve with my advocacy is that I want each and every person with vitiligo to stand proud,’ she says.
Enam’s confidence has now grown so much she has started to model. She has even modelled for some of the Africa’s biggest designers.
‘What really sparked my interest in modelling was that I really want to tell the world about my skin.’
‘I really want to tell people that modelling is not all about being slim, being black, being of uniformed skin.’
‘You can equally be unique, you can equally make a difference in the modelling industry despite your skin color or how tall or short you are. You can make a difference.’