Prior to arriving in Tanzania my mind tried to imagine the experiences that would occur in this new world. I questioned whether these newfound experiences would change me for the better. Was it possible that this trip would change my entire outlook on life? I’m an avid traveler and I love putting myself in new environments. Usually the differences in these environments are immediately noticeable and the similarities, which are seen as common ground, are ignored. Yet it was a similarity not a difference that struck my curiosity here. Inferiority due to the color of your skin is a mindset that is still prevalent around the world. Creams made to lighten your skin sell like hotcakes and whiteness is coveted. What else do you expect from a society wherein the girls yearn to model actresses such as Angelina Jolie?
The Tanzanian girls that I met have a standard of beauty that is completely skewed. While in Iringa, I interviewed Lugalo Secondary School student Neema Kibasa. One of the questions I asked Neema was what she believed should change in Tanzania. Completely ignoring my question she pointed to my skin and said, “I wish.” At first I thought she was just confused so I repeated my question. She wasn’t confused and she began to explain how she wanted lighter skin. Now I’m no Snow White I’m practically the opposite with my ethnicity being Indian. However to Neema anything was better than being black. The sad part was that she chose skin color as the thing she would alter in Tanzania. All the poverty and corruption evident in her home country was left on the backburner. Why is it that beauty is linked to the fairness of your complexion? Is it an idea that is instilled by the media or the school? If you look back in history the Anglo Saxon race was dominant. Now countries that were previously colonized are the places that show the most development. With the emerging powers of developing countries such as China and India one wonders if the “ideal beauty” will change. Hopefully there will be a day in the near future where beauty is accepted in the eye of the beholder.
About the author: Pooja Dhar is a rising senior at The Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island. Pooja traveled with The School Fund team to Tanzania as a part of our High School Fellowship program in June and July 2011. Pooja and four other students from across America met with their peers in Tanzania to exchange stories and learn about one another’s lives. Pooja has an interest in international development that stems from her love for travel and involvement with her high school’s Model UN club.