Pageants SA’s marked dif­fer­ence

It’s also mak­ing in­roads into the rest of Africa

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MPILETSO MOTUMI @mane_mpi

MORE than 400 000 needy peo­ple have ben­e­fited from Pageants SA’s char­ity work, which is its pri­mary ob­jec­tive.

On Satur­day, the fi­nal­ists of the Miss, Ms, Mrs and Mrs Africa Clas­sic braved the win­ter chill to at­tend the of­fi­cial sash­ing cer­e­mony on top of a moun­tain at the scenic Hart­beespoort Dam ca­ble­way.

Pageants SA was founded by Carolyn Botha, who started the Miss Ju­nior Africa ti­tle in 2001.

“From there it just ex­ploded. We then brought in a full pageant for all ages, from three up­wards.”

It was in 2006 that the Mrs Africa ti­tle was in­tro­duced af­ter Botha saw how hard the mother of one of the young ti­tle­hold­ers was work­ing for char­ity.

The com­pe­ti­tion is now in its 11th year and has ex­panded into the rest of Africa.

There are 40 fi­nal­ists al­to­gether un­der the four ti­tles. For the Miss Africa cat­e­gory, fi­nal­ists range from 18-26.

The Ms Africa cat­e­gory is for those be­tween 18-45, Mrs Africa is for 26- to 45-year-olds and the Mrs Africa Clas­sic cat­e­gory is for women be­tween the ages of 45-60.

“By crown­ing the var­i­ous win­ners of the pageants, we are giv­ing ev­ery­one an op­por­tu­nity to go out there and carry a ti­tle and do char­ity work.

“You can’t send one con­tes­tant to 17 pageants in a year, it’s im­pos­si­ble.

“So we dif­fer­en­ti­ate which one suits the dif­fer­ent pageants best and we crown them ac­cord­ingly,” said Botha.

Pageants SA’s main char­ity is the Dig­nity Dreams project, where re-us­able, wash­able san­i­tary tow­els are given to school­girls in need.

It also sup­ports the deskbags project, where mo­bile desks are made out of re­cy­cled bill­boards.

Botha said ul­ti­mately it was about tak­ing pageantry back to why it ac­tu­ally got un­der way in the first place – for char­ity.

“If you have 40 women with each just touch­ing 100 peo­ple’s lives, that’s 4 000 peo­ple who would have ben­e­fited from the re­lief from the fi­nal­ists.

“It’s grow­ing by the year, with each wo­man touch­ing 100 lives. Some do up to 1 000; it’s a pyra­mid ef­fect. One per­son can only do so much and that’s why I started the pageants.”

Gil­lian El­son, who won the first Mrs Africa and is also a judge for the fi­nal event tak­ing place in Novem­ber, said win­ning the ti­tle helped her make a dif­fer­ence across the con­ti­nent.

“One needs to be char­i­ta­ble to be a Mrs Africa. You have to use the ti­tle to help those in the com­mu­nity who are less for­tu­nate and up­lift those who need help. There’s an enor­mous need on the con­ti­nent and too few hands to help.”

She said she was look­ing for a fi­nal­ist who would be char­i­ta­ble, well groomed and an all-rounder, and not afraid to get “stuck in” to up­lift the com­mu­nity.

Var­i­ous ti­tle hold­ers are rep­re­sent­ing the con­ti­nent in var­i­ous pageants across the globe. The cur­rent Mrs Africa, Ke­didimetse Tswai, will be vis­it­ing China in Oc­to­ber to rep­re­sent the coun­try in the Mrs Africa Globe com­pe­ti­tion.

“It has been a roller-coaster ride as Mrs Africa. When you do char­ity work, it opens doors for you. It has been an hon­our and a bless­ing to do so many things in just one year. But one year re­ally isn’t enough,” she said.

Another former Mrs Africa, Janet Pot­gi­eter, said the ti­tle was a plat­form to carry on the dreams and as­pi­ra­tions peo­ple have. “Our reign­ing ti­tle­hold­ers can tell you that you will not find the same sup­port any­where else.”

She will be part of the del­e­ga­tion go­ing to the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo in Oc­to­ber to visit var­i­ous or­phan­ages and dis­place­ment camps with the World Food Pro­gramme.

The 2013 ti­tle­holder, Heidi Botes, said the fi­nal­ists were in for a lot of fun and mak­ing new friends.

“They will gain a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and self-con­fi­dence. It’s go­ing to change their lives com­pletely.”

More than 400 000 needy peo­ple up­lifted through their char­ity work

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