My story: I accept myself and smile, one patch at a time

Elizabeth Wangui Njee
My name is Elizabeth Wangui Njee and I am a nominated member of the Nyeri county assembly, I have been living with a rare skin condition, known as vitiligo, since I was a teenager.

When I was 15-years-old at Pangani Girls High School, one of my classmates looked at my face and told me to wipe off a white spot that was under my eye.

At the time we both thought it was chalk but after several attempts to clean my face, the spot did not go away and I had no choice but to go to the school nurse to seek assistance.

She then referred me to a doctor and after several months, several trips to doctors and skin specialists they confirmed that I had skin a condition called vitiligo.

It is a genetic condition in which the pigment cells of the skin, melanocytes, are destroyed in certain areas. Symptoms and signs of vitiligo include loss of skin color in the form of depigmented, or white, patches of skin in any location on the body.

People with vitiligo are often mis-diagnosed as having albinism yet there is a world of difference between these two conditions.

After high school, my condition worsened and my skin became patchy, it was a very difficult situation to accept especially because I was just a teen and I soon realised that my skin condition was going to affect how boys saw me.

Being self-conscious of my condition I spent years trying to get a cure for it. I also went to the extent of trying to trace any relatives who might have the same condition but I found out I was the only one. As is the case with genetic disorders, the genes could have been dormant for decades and then passed on to me, where they then became dominant and manifested the symptoms.

It was a difficult journey for me as a young woman to take and I tried all sorts of remedies to the extent I nearly jeopardised my health.

I eventually gave up and started to accept my condition. In 2012, I decided to go into politics and after the general election in 2013, I was nominated as a member of the Nyeri county assembly.

This gave me a platform to address the plight of people living with vitiligo and albinism and one of the first things I did is push to have sunscreen lotion and lipbalm provided to them free at the county level.

Today when you look at me, you can see a brightness in my eyes and I can tell you it comes from me learning how to accept myself.

I still do have some low moments but I have learned to let God grant me the strength to face each day.

My story