Newly crowned Miss Africa 2017, Gaseangwe Balopi is a woman on a mission to prove Africa’s potential to the world while fighting against illegal migration and Climate Change in the continent.
The 21year old Tonota born fashion entrepreneur, stylist and model was crowned in the second edition of the beauty pageant hosted at the Calabar International Convention Centre in Cross River State in Nigeria on December 27 2017, beating 24 contestants from across the continent. Rwanda’s Fiona Naringwa and Luyolo Mngonyama of South Africa were placed second and third, respectively.
Her quest for the crown, however was without glitches, she revealed to WeekendLife this week. “My Miss Africa journey was not an easy one. From spending my first Christmas away from my family; to losing my phone that had all my research my speeches and all a few days before pre judging; To living with ladies from all over Africa, with different cultures, different beliefs, morals and all but we made it work,” she said.
According to Balopi, when the pageant was introduced last year, a friend alerted her of it but she decided to not contest as she learnt about it rather late. This year, however she was more than prepared to give it her all, and she did! “I first heard of Miss Africa from a friend last year I decided not to pursue it then because of the simple fact that it came too soon and I believed I was not prepared. This year I decided to join because of the longing and burning desire to make a difference in the world,” Balopi explained.
To her, joining the pageant was all about her making a visible impact to the world. “It’s the best time to be alive for the African Child; our voice and power echo from all corners of the world. Our passion and hunger to change the game shines brighter than all the diamonds in Africa put together. The fight against illegal migration and climate change has long begun and I will be Africa’s weapon. I dedicate my life to my beloved African people. I dedicate my time to making a difference in people’s lives and fighting factors that hinder Africa from reaching its full potential,” she said.
The beauty with brains is of the view that Africans carry great potential and wants to dedicate a chunk of her time to addressing ills affecting the continent, among them, illegal migration and climate change. “My reign has begun and I intend on changing the game while at it. I am intelligent, I am eloquent, I am graceful and I am Gold,” she said in an email communication sent to her by this publication.
The theme for this year’s pageant was “Climate Change and Migration” and was at aimed at raising awareness on the need to protect the environment and caution the youth against illegal migration. She said of her experiences: “It’s an experience that can be likened to none. It’s the second biggest carnival in the world. The cultural diversity and colors where amazing. The carnival theme this year was Migration. The carnival isn’t just about fun but it’s an illustration of the culture of cross river state and Nigeria as a whole. The different bands show case and interpret the theme Migration using colorful costumes. It’s very educational.”
Part of her prize money, she said, will go to funding a solar power project sustaining her “Plant a tree” initiative, and also to her illegal migration project she is currently working towards launching. But she will also spoil her mom and herself with a few fashion apparels, being a fashion lover she is. Some charities she has worked with will also get a share of the winnings. Balopi won $30,000 and a brand new Ford Edge sport utility vehicle.
Miss Africa Beauty Pageant was established in order to take the tourism and hospitality industry in Africa and the rest of the world by storm. The pageant sought to crown a queen who would promote Green Economy as a tool for sustainable development, whilst merging beauty with nature and a tenacious cause centered around creating the much needed awareness on Man's direct and indirect impact on her environment.
On annual basis, 30 ladies between the ages of 18-25 year representing 40 African countries contend for the prestigious title. In 2016, Angolan Neurite Mendes was crowned the first Miss Africa Climate Change Ambassador in Calabar. The theme was ‘Green Economy, a tool for Sustainable Development’.
According to World Population Review, women aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape.
From these very statistics Botswana can be found second only to neighbouring South Africa with the highest rape cases in the world. The number of incidents per 100,000 citizens do not take into account the number of cases that have not been reported to authorities. This goes without saying that Botswana may very well be on the same level as South Africa if not surpassing it.
Most of these victims have a hard time dealing with the violence they faced to an extent where it affects their day to day life.
WeekendLife interviewed rape survivor, Patience Ruwona, who was raped at the age of 15. Ruwona shared her gruesome experience and what it took for her to find healing, gather strength and move forward.
“It happened eight years ago and at the time I was only 15 years old. My mother was staying with her boyfriend at the time. So it happened that one day I came early from school. I was still doing form 2. I was the first one to come back from school. The boyfriend was home. So when I was changing into home clothes in my room, the boyfriend came in without even knocking. He then told me my mother has left some money so that whoever comes back first from school can go and buy meat,” Ruwona narrated.
“I then told him I will come get the money when I am done. He went back to his room. So after I finished changing, I went to their room. I knocked and he told me to come in. When I got, I found him half naked with only a towel. That made me feel very uncomfortable because when we were growing, we were taught never to enter an elder’s room when they are not fully dressed. I told him I came to collect the money and he pointed the dressing table.”
Unbeknownst to the young unsuspecting Ruwona, her mother’s then boyfriend would then grab the young lad, rip apart her garments and have his way with her. When Ruwona threatened to expose him, the audacious perpetrator would laugh in her face, telling her that there would be nothing her mother would do about the incident. And true to his words, Ruwona’s mother did not flinch upon hearing the gruesome crime that befell her daughter.
“In the evening when my mother came I told her everything. It was a simple thing to her and she never took it seriously. I told her I am bleeding and she said go and wash up we will talk about this some other time. Just like that suddenly I recalled that man’s words and I truly believed him. Till then I have not told anyone about this. I thought my mother is going to protect me, so if my mother failed to protect me no one else could protect me,” said a distraught Ruwona.
Seeking help after being raped
“Physically I had no desire to have sexual intercourse, I was scared. Years passed by and emotionally I was still battling because there were days I had flashbacks of the rape. It’s like a wound, it can never heal but it can stop bleeding. It never heals. It will bleed another time. I felt uncomfortable around men and I never went for counselling. I never went for anything, I thought I will cope on my own,” she said.
“So one day I decided enough is enough and I decided to speak out. That time I figured counselling would be best. I later went for counselling and I was doing well. I had to accept it happened and put everything in the past. Forgiving my mother helped me to heal.”
Director of Save A Woman, Babedi Samakabadi, has highlighted that rape is a permanent wound that one has to live with for the rest of their lives.
“The first thing the victim can do is to admit that they have been abused and they should be able to talk about it to whoever they can trust; could be a close relative, a counsellor, a friend or a pastor. It is not easy to take a step towards your healing but it must be done.
Victims of rape, must create a huge room in their hearts to forgive the perpetrators even when they are not sorry, forgiveness will help the victim to make peace with life and the future. Forgiveness will allow the victim to be able to get over the horrible experience and not associate the intimate relations as abuse at all times,” said Samakabadi.
“If one doesn’t allow themselves to heal and move on, dating and engaging in intimate matters are going to be a problem in their lives. As the victim can disclose to whoever they trust like friends or family, they are also advised to seek more especially professional counselling for proper psychological therapy, as the memories of the incident may torment the victim therefore therapy may assist with getting to live with such memories without being drawn back or life progress being affected . Lastly, the victims must know that issues as these aren’t easy to deal with through our own ability, we need God for strength, wisdom and courage. We have no power to diminish some of the weight in our emotions or the damage done to our souls and hearts, hence we need God to carry us through.”
If you or a loved one is in need of help in dealing with rape or gender based violence, the following organisations provide free counselling services;
BOFWA (Botswana Family Welfare Association) 390 0489
BOSASNET (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) 395 9119
LIFE LINE 391 1270
MBGE (Men and Boys for Gender Equality) 395 7763
BGBVC (Botswana Gender Based Violence and Support Centre) 390 7659
BOCAIP (Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme) 391 6454
After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.
On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.
The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.
Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.
The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.
At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.
“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”
The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.
The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.
The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.
However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.
Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.
Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.
“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.
“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”
Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.
Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.