Miss Earth semi-finalist, Nazia Wadee. Photo: Londell Phumi Ramalepe
Nazia Wadee is a born and bred Johannesburger who is doing honours in Media Studies. The 21-year-old Miss Teen Commonwealth South Africa 2015/2016 is a semi-finalist in the Miss Earth competition.
What does Miss Earth mean to you?
Miss Earth South Africa is a women’s leadership programme that aims to empower and educate South African women through the lens of environmental sustainability. It aims to create awareness about issues concerning conservation, sustainability and development. Being a semi – finalist for Miss Earth SA has been an educational and enlightening experience. This platform has allowed me to live out my true potential, break my barriers and to live out what I believe is my life purpose, which is to give back and make a difference.
What inspired you to enter the competition?
Given that I am a responsible active citizen who is passionate about positive change, the core values and duties of a Miss Earth title winner are that which I would like to continue to associate myself with. As former Ms Teen Commonwealth South Africa, I fell in love with the important duties that a titleholder has and the massive platform available to create a better life for all. My journey as a philanthropist had begun with the understanding of human suffering through exploitation or social prejudice at grass roots levels.
What do you do to effect change?
I have been afforded the honour of being the ambassador for the Youth Managers Foundation South Africa. The organisation aims to develop and discover leaders in underprivileged schools, and provides them with the necessary tools, leadership skills and resources to make positive changes in their schools and their community. I am involved in various welfare, cultural and goodwill initiatives, leading me to be a recipient of a Women of Wonder award as well as a second place award for the Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership award hosted by East Wave radio station. My love of goodwill initiatives has recently awarded me with the position of Head of Student Affairs on a university governing body.
How do you balance your studies and modelling?
I have always been active in terms of running charitable projects or initiatives or involved in sports or other extracurricular activities. The most important thing that I have learnt is have good time, management skills and learning to find balance. Passion is a powerful thing, and can drive you do to amazing and sometimes unexpected things, only because we are capable of so much more than we believe.
What do you hope to achieve with the Miss Earth competition?
My goal is to expand my knowledge, grow, empower myself in order to address critical social and environmental issues within my communities. My aim is to create awareness with regard to the various environmental issues that we face, and possibly provide solutions to them; to beautify my environment and make my community a beacon of hope for what is possible, for the betterment of all. I hope to inspire young people to get involved in our community and follow their passions. I hope to touch lives through my projects and initiatives. I hope to build lifelong friendships and bonds with the new people I have had the opportunity of meeting or the people that I will meet in the future. Furthermore, my aim is to empower those I meet along the way as well as those around me. Irrespective of the competition’s outcome, if I achieve this I believe that that will be my success.
What words would you share with young girls who look up to you?
Being from a small town, if I win this title it will raise the hope of others, to believe that nothing is impossible. The human spirit is amazing. In the direst circumstances the instinct to survive triumphs everything – so me winning this title will allow others to follow in my path and escalate humanity and our humanness to a level I know we can achieve.
GENERATION EARTH: Felix Donkor (Phd APES) shows the Mondeor Primary the ropes on sustainable gardening. Photo: Michelle Gumede
Large tyres filled with leaves, torn newspaper and vermicast soil are some of the ways Wits society Generation Earth is helping to spread the word on environmentally friendly living.
Generation Earth visited Mondeor primary school last Thursday to teach primary school learners how to start sustainable vegetable gardens.
“We have to share our knowledge on sustainable gardening with the school kids because they are the future of this country,” said Felix Donkor, an Animal Plant and Environmental Sciences (APES) PhD student and executive committee member of Generation Earth.
Founder of Generation Earth and teacher at Mondeor primary school, Ella Bella Elaine Constantinides, said the school had previously attempted to plant a vegetable garden but it was unsuccessful and fell apart with most of the vegetation dying.
“Now Wits Generation Earth is teaching us how to sustainably plant, grow and take of our garden,” said Constantinides.
Eleven-year-old Madison Bailey told Wits Vuvuzela that she and her sister chose to join Generation Earth because “we love the plants and flowers.”
A third-year Fine Art student and Miss Earth semi finalist, Jessica Janse Van Rensburg, attended the historic event as she has a fierce passion for the environment.
“Joburg is a beautiful city and we need to teach the young guys how to take care of it for their sake as well,” said Janse Van Rensburg. She told Wits Vuvuzela that she feels young people need someone to look up to, someone to act and inspire them to do the right thing.
Glenanda primary school head prefects were also there in solidarity with the greening initiative. Deputy head girl, Keisha Ras, said that she feels it is important to have more trees and go green. “It’s an honor for us to do this especially with a Miss Earth finalist,” she said.
Local community builder and leader, Robert Winter, said “these kids absorb information and they go on to do it themselves at home, sustainable living becomes a part of who they are.”
Winter is more than happy to teach the children about gardening, soil types, plant uses and everything to do with green living. With over 100 plant cuttings in his garden and two water tanks, he has much experience on environmental sustainability.
A third year education student has made it through to the finals of Miss Earth South Africa – and has “fallen in love” with the change she hopes to make in environmental issues.
Ntandoyenkosi Kunene entered the pageant when she heard about it from a friend. “And the weird thing is they were already closed for applications but we went to the casting anyway,” she said.
Kunene was selected for the next round and eventually became a finalist for Gauteng.
“When I saw the email that read ‘CONGRATULATIONS’, I didn’t even continue to read anything else – I gave the phone to my sister while running into my parents’ bedroom screaming,” said Kunene. “The noise woke up everyone else and we just danced around screaming. It was such a great moment.”
According to their website, Miss Earth South Africa aims to “empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to create a sustainable difference in our plight to combat the destruction of our natural heritage.”
The event helps create awareness of our environment, wildlife and conservation in South Africa.
Although Kunene describes environmental issues as very close to her heart, she says knowing the facts is not essential for entry into the competition. “But you must be willing to learn. And you fall in love with the change you want to make.”
The Miss Earth contestants were expected to get involved in various charity and community projects while competing for the title. Kunene was involved in a variety of projects, including teaching Katlehong and Tembisa children about planting beans.
“It’s quite inspiring. Even though we can’t change the current situation that we’re in, we can influence how they [the children] see the future,” Kunene said.
“It’s life-changing for those kids. With Miss Earth we strive to do that. We strive to change lives, to empower. And we also strive to give awareness to the environmental problems that we are facing as a country.”
According to Kunene, it is the way she tackles challenges that sets her apart from the other finalists. “I’m not your every day ‘what you see is what you get’ [kind of girl] because in most cases after meeting people, [they] always say: ‘I wasn’t expecting that from you’.”
If Kunene wins the title, she wants to get involved in environmental projects in her home town of Piet Retief in Mpumalanga. She has already organised a tree-plating campaign in the town.
“I want to work with rural schools, to plant gardens, to plant trees. We want to give hope. If I could win Miss Earth, that would be my major priority.”
The final gala evening will be held at Montecasino on August 25.