HARARE: Last Friday night, 15 women had planned to compete in the beauty pageant. But with protesters calling for an end to the 37-year-old rule of President Robert Mugabe, the show just couldn’t go on.

“We did it for safety of these girls,” says Memory Munyoro, a project coordinator at Zimbabwe Albino Association who helped coordinate the pageant. “If anything happens to them that means we’ll be responsible as an organization.”

The first pageant for people with albinism was reportedly held in Kenya last year. The Zimbabwe pageant was the brainchild of Brenda Mudzimu, a nursing student who first understood she had albinism at age 10. Albinism is inherited from both parents through a gene that inhibits the production of melanin, leaving people with no pigment in their hair, skin and eyes.

Mudzimu says the pageant is meant “to bring awareness, to instill confidence” in girls with the genetic condition.

Until the competition was postponed, its organizers were hoping to fill the theater’s 461 seats. The event is now rescheduled for February 16, 2018. NPR