Pageants SA’s marked difference
It’s also making inroads into the rest of Africa
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