2022 Teens Dream – Justice for Vitiligo
I do not have a dream; rather, passion scintillates in my blood, determination rests in my eyes, and a strong will to bring justice to the vitiligo community is at the core of my heart. The sixteenth goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Today, about 80 million diverse individuals are affected by vitiligo, a non-contagious and non-painful dermatological disease. I am a part of this statistic. What society does not know is that they suffocate us and steal our will to show our unmasked faces to the world. The stigma and lack of education associated with vitiligo have resulted in interminable staring, prolonged bullying, and discriminatory remarks. Throughout the course of my life, I have felt like an animal at the zoo: the subtleties of others moving away from me, giving afraid looks, and discreetly exchanging whispers made me feel like an exotic sight. To forget these incidents is like a wound: it will heal, but it will also leave a scar. This is the opposite of what the UNSDG is intending to do: to create an inclusive society. The purpose of this goal is for intersectionality to be embraced; however, it is often forgotten that medical conditions also fall under our identities. I aspire to break this stigma by creating a children’s picture book that demonstrates the beauty within vitiligo, a social media campaign that creates a powerful but educational platform, and a petition that confronts pharmaceutical companies and eminent governmental officials to demand change. It is within the power of these individuals to invest in research and change the lives of those with vitiligo that are condemned by the social construct that society has put in place; however, for some reason, profit takes precedence over human life and morality. I was diagnosed with vitiligo at the age of six. It is a part of my purpose to change the face of how society views those with vitiligo and how those with vitiligo view themselves: we are rare beauties. It is only when we embrace every distinctive feature of humans on Earth that we will accomplish the sixteenth goal of the UNSDG as a society. If natural beauty is the most elegant form, why do we have to mask our faces to conceal what society thinks of as blemishes?