Monday 25 September 2023

Beneath the Veil

Photo by Kreative Kwame on Pexels

By Atinuke Adeosun

Cradled by rolling hills and cloaked in lush greenery, Umu Oma rests in tranquil beauty. Umu Oma, where the sun's warmth permeates deep into the soul and those with dark complexions thrive, Adaeze emerges with a complexion as pale as the moonlight and hair as white as calabash chalk. Her birth fills her family with immense joy, but it also sparks curiosity—a child born to parents with brown hair and skin as dark as the loamy soil where the bananas are planted. In a society where likeness binds, Adaeze is born with albinism, a condition that renders her skin pallid and her hair like creamy milk.

Adaeze walks with her head down most of the time. In a world where her mere existence sets her apart, where her resemblance to strangers from distant lands outweighs the familiarity of her kin, she stuck out like a sore thumb. Every day she walks through Umu Oma, she is the subject of intense gossip: people concoct stories and myths to explain her presence. Navigating this society without the natural shield of adaptation possessed by her kinfolk, without a fundamental part of their biological identity—dark, melanated skin—was sometimes too tough for Adaeze. Ignorance bred stories that painted her as cursed—an adversary to the light and life-giving sun.

Walking to the market with her mother, little Adaeze could not help but notice the many eyes on her as they passed by.

"Mama, why do they stare?" Adaeze's little voice trembled, holding on tightly to her mother’s skirts.

Her mother's tender gaze enveloped her, a shield against the world's harshness. "They fear what they do not understand, my precious.", she murmured, her hand a soothing balm through Adaeze's hair. "But in our eyes, you are perfect."

Time flowed, but the prejudice remained unyielding. Ostracism marked Adaeze's youth, leaving her yearning for acceptance beyond familial love. At fifteen, her heart heavy with longing, Adaeze took a fateful step. A note of love left behind, she ventured into the unknown, guided by the moon's argent glow, seeking a place to call her own.

Guided by the moon's silver glow, Adaeze wandered the unfamiliar roads, hoping to find a place where she could finally belong. But fate took an unexpected turn. Before she knew it, a shadow fell over her, and she was whisked away, her pleas echoing into the night.

Days turned into nights as Adaeze found herself confined in a dimly lit hideout, a prisoner of her own desperation. Her dreams of a new beginning were shattered, replaced by fear and uncertainty. The kidnappers' cruel taunts and menacing laughter echoed in her ears, and she clung to memories of her parents and the love that had sustained her.


Dr. Chukwuma, the leader of ‘Freedom Seekers, had been gathering information on a group of kidnappers who had been taking little girls from their villages and then selling them off as sex slaves. Intelligence reaching her from the Anti-Human Trafficking Squad brought a ray of hope: their hideout had been triangulated in Ngwo Pine Forest in Enugu and there was going to be a raid tonight. 

"We must act swiftly.", she declared to her team, her voice a resolute command. If the security agencies were right, more than twenty five girls could be saved tonight. Her team needed to be on hand to provide both medical and psychosocial help. 

This was going to be a long night.


Under the cover of darkness, the Freedom Seekers and security operatives infiltrated the kidnapper's lair. The air was charged with tension as gunshots began to fly as the kidnappers fought back. Soon enough, the gunshots died down, announcing a hope that the team could advance forward. Dr. Chukwuma took charge of the silence and forged ahead to look for the kidnapped girls.

Huddled up together in the dimly lit space, Adaeze and the other girls trembled with fear. Adaeze's heart raced as she heard footsteps approaching the door, hope as well as dread swelled inside—whomever opened that door would decide the fate of her life.

And then, suddenly, the door burst open, revealing a group of individuals who clearly were not part of her captors. They immediately went about untying the girls and leading them out of the room. Dr. Chukwuma's outstretched hand reached for Adaeze, pulling her into the embrace of freedom.

In the aftermath of the raid, the kidnappers were captured, some fled, and some were killed in the struggle. The rescued girls were then taken to Freedom Seekers' rescue house, where they were bathed, clothed, fed, and underwent medical checkups for any signs of illness, injury, or abuse.

After giving them a week to recuperate, Dr. Chukwuma interviewed each girl to find out how they could return them to their families.

When it was Adaeze's turn, she was escorted to the doctor's office where she was met by a warm smile. The doctor invited Adaeze to sit down.

“Hello dear. Do you mind telling me your name?” Dr. Chukwuma  asked softly.

“Adaeze."”she said softly, her eyes glued to the floor.

“Okay, and where are you from, Adaeze?”

Adaeze looked at the doctor briefly and put her head back down.

“Umuoma village, ma.”

“Oh, I know where that is. We could have you home tomorrow. Do you know your parents' phone number?”

Adaeze's head shook sharply. “I don't want to go home, ma. Please don't call them.”

Surprised by this, Dr. Chukwuma gently asked why. Adaeze didn't answer and refused to say anything else. Suspecting that the child must have a very serious reason for not wanting to go back home after what she just experienced, the doctor ended the interview.

Weeks went by, and one by one, the girls were sent home. Adaeze was saying goodbye to her friend, a girl named Ijeoma, whom she had bonded with during their time in captivity.

“I still don't know why you don't want to go home. Your parents must be worried and miss you a lot, Ada. Ijeoma said as she pulled out of the hug they were sharing.

“I have told them what life was like for me there. I can't go back. I miss them, but I can't go back to being the outcast.”

“Hmmm... I honestly hope you change your mind. As for me, I can't wait to see my grandmother. I have never been away from her this long. I miss her a lot.”

“I am happy you get to go back to her. I'll miss you a lot, though. Adaeze said, pulling her in for another hug.

“We could see each other if you went home. We live in neighbouring villages, you know.”

Adaeze was about to respond when Ijeoma was called to go to a waiting car outside. They said their final goodbyes, and Ijeoma left.

Adaeze was the last girl remaining.

Wondering what to do about Adaeze, Dr. Chukwuma decided to take her to her house. “Are you sure that is wise, doctor?” a Freedom Seeker asked with concern.

“The girl doesn't want to go home. I have seen this before. I need to find out why she is refusing to even talk to her parents. I fear she may be running from abuse of some sort.”" she responded.

Laying alone on her bed in the dormitory, Adaeze stared at the ceiling, wondering what her life would be like living with the doctor. She knew one thing, though—the doctor and everyone here treated her like she wasn't different from the other girls. No one taunted her or looked at her like the people in her village did.

So what was different about these people? Were they just kinder people?

As the days turned into weeks, Adaeze settled into her new life at Dr. Chukwuma's house. The doctor proved to be a compassionate and caring guardian, and Adaeze found herself slowly opening up to her. They spent evenings talking about various subjects, from the moon's mysteries to the village's folktales.

One evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon and painted the sky with hues of gold and pink, Adaeze and Dr. Chukwuma sat on the veranda. Adaeze stared out at the beauty before her, a stark contrast to the darkness she had known. She turned to the doctor and spoke softly, her voice barely audible over the gentle rustling of leaves.

“Doctor, there is a reason why I don't want to go back home.”

Dr. Chukwuma's gaze locked onto Adaeze's eyes, her expression a mixture of concern and anticipation. “I knew there was. You can trust me, Adaeze. You are safe here.”

Taking a deep breath, Adaeze said, “I am cursed.”

Taken aback by that, the doctor said, “You are what?”

“Cursed. I have been since I was born. My parents say I am not, but everyone in my village says I am, and they all hate me for it.”

Adaeze went on to recount her story. She spoke of the nasty stares and whispers about her appearance that had haunted her since childhood, years of her life buried beneath layers of fear and shame.

Dr. Chukwuma listened attentively, her heart aching for the young girl who had endured so much. When Adaeze finally finished speaking, there was a heavy silence that hung in the air. The doctor reached out and gently held Adaeze's hand, offering comfort and support.

“Adaeze, thank you for sharing with me. You have been incredibly brave. Dr. Chukwuma said, her voice filled with empathy. “But dear child, you are not cursed. You have never been cursed. Your parents were right, and everybody else was wrong, not the other way around.”

Adaeze had heard these words before: her mother had said them over and over again. But she could never believe them, and even now, she didn't. The doctor could tell by the look on her face.

“Adaeze,” Dr. Chukwuma's voice held tenderness and strength, “your appearance is a testament to life's grandeur. A reminder that beauty lies in diversity.”

Adaeze's eyes glistened with hope and uncertainty. “But why am I so different, Dr. Chukwuma? Why do they think I am cursed?”

A gentle smile curved her lips. “Dearest Adaeze, your uniqueness is a gift. Albinism is simply a result of having less melanin.”

“Melanin?” Adaeze asked, confused by the word.

“Yes dear: melanin. It is something everybody has that colours our skin, hair, and eyes. Everybody has it: you just have a little less than me and everyone in your village, but it is very normal.”

Adaeze nodded, thirsting for knowledge. “So, I am not cursed or a bad omen?”

Dr. Chukwuma's eyes held warmth, a universe of reassurance. “No, my dear. You are a beautiful, wonderful girl, and I hate that their ignorance and lack of education caused you so much pain. But dear, you shouldn't let them cause you and your parents more pain anymore because that is what is happening now. They are keeping you apart. You can go back home and shatter ignorance.”

“How can I do that?” Adaeze asks.  “They will never listen to me. They never have.”

“They will when you have the right things to say, and I will help you learn more about albinism, which is what your condition is called.”

“Albinism.” Adaeze echoes.

Dr. Chukwuma continues, “Education is a powerful weapon against ignorance and prejudice. With knowledge, you can be a beacon of change in your village. You can help them see that albinism is just a natural variation, not a curse.”

Adaeze's eyes brighten with newfound determination. “I want to learn, Doctor. I want to understand and be able to explain it to others.”

Dr. Chukwuma smiles, her heart swelling with pride for Adaeze's courage. “That's the spirit, my dear. We will start with basic biology and gradually delve into the intricacies of albinism. And along the way, we'll also ensure you continue your general education.”


As the weeks turn into months, Adaeze becomes a dedicated student. Dr. Chukwuma provides her with books, resources, and even arranges online courses to enhance her understanding. Adaeze's thirst for knowledge is insatiable, and her confidence grows with each passing day.

With time, Adaeze becomes not only well-versed in albinism but also a champion of education and awareness. She joins the Freedom Seekers, working alongside Dr. Chukwuma and the team to rescue and empower those who have been victimized. Adaeze's personal journey of empowerment becomes intertwined with her mission to create change in the world around her.

Years pass, and Adaeze stands on the threshold of her village, her heart pounding with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. She has armed herself with knowledge, experience, and unwavering determination. As she walks back into Umuoma, her head held high, the villagers' surprised and curious gazes meet her.

But this time, Adaeze doesn't shy away. She walks with purpose, the echoes of her steps resounding with the resolve to transform her village's perception of albinism. Her parents hear of her return, and their tearful reunion is a testament to the enduring power of love and hope. They share that Dr. Chukwuma had reached out to them explaining everything that was going on and they had given their permission to keep Adaeze until she was ready to return home. 

Adaeze and Dr. Chukwuma launch a series of awareness campaigns about albinism. They conduct workshops, hold seminars, and engage in open dialogues with the villagers. Adaeze's eloquence, combined with her personal journey, touches the hearts of those who once shunned her.

Over time, a gradual change takes root in Umuoma. The villagers begin to see Adaeze not as a curse, but as a symbol of resilience and possibility. They start to understand that albinism is a natural variation, a quirk of genetics that carries no inherent negative connotations.

And when another child, a little boy named Ike, is born with albinism in the village, Adaeze's heart swells with determination. She remembers the pain she endured, and she refuses to let history repeat itself. With renewed passion, Adaeze doubles her efforts, ensuring that Ike grows up in a community that embraces diversity and celebrates individuality.

As the years go by, Umu Oma transforms. The once-ignorant whispers are replaced by enlightened conversations. Adaeze's advocacy has left an indelible mark on the village, forever altering its perception of albinism. The boy, Ike, grows up in an environment where he is cherished and supported, his potential nurtured by a community that has learned the power of acceptance.

And so, beneath the veil of prejudice, a radiant light emerges—a light ignited by the unwavering spirit of a girl named Adaeze. Her journey from darkness to empowerment becomes a catalyst for change, transforming Umu Oma into a place of understanding, compassion, and unity. Adaeze's legacy lives on, an enduring testament to the remarkable power of education, advocacy, and the human capacity to evolve and embrace.


Albinism and human trafficking are two deeply concerning issues that Shades of Us is committed to addressing and advocating for. We recognize that albinism and human trafficking are also significant challenges that need our attention.

Albinism, a genetic condition characterized by a lack of melanin, has often subjected individuals like Adaeze to discrimination and prejudice. This prejudice can lead to isolation, mental health issues, and even violence. Human trafficking is a heinous crime that preys on vulnerable individuals like Adaeze and Ijeoma, exploiting their hopes and dreams. 

Shades of Us believes that every African, regardless of their skin color or genetic makeup, should be granted the fundamental rights of respect, acceptance, and a life free from discrimination. We are unwavering in our stance against all forms of human trafficking, tirelessly championing the need for stronger legislation, improved law enforcement, and comprehensive support for survivors.

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