FORMER Miss Zimbabwe-USA and Miss Africa Washington State, Andile Mpofu is busying herself inspiring the girl child. Through her Prevention of Academic Disruptions for School Girls project, Mpofu is assisting disadvantaged and orphaned children build their dreams. NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio caught up with Mpofu (AM) for a chat. Below are the excerpts.
ND: What has happened since the end of your reign as Miss Zimbabwe-USA 2016?
AM: I went on to compete in the Miss Africa-Washington State and I was crowned the first ever Miss Africa-Washington State for the 2016-2017 period. I recently graduated with a BA in Business and Economics degree from North Park University. I have since joined the team behind Miss Zimbabwe-USA, a business-minded team that wishes to see young Zimbabwean women bring change in areas close to their hearts that in turn benefit Zimbabwe.
ND: What does that achievement mean for your modelling career?
AM: I am not really done yet. I still have a competing spirit in me that I would love to release soon. I am starting to slow down though, easing into my big-girl job now.
ND: Where do you want to take your modelling career?
AM: I still have my eyes on bigger international pageants like Miss World and Miss Universe. I am just waiting for the right opportunity to pursue it.
ND: You have been involved in charity work in the past, which projects are you focusing on?
AM: Learning about how other girls’ dreams are cut short by biological clocks that they cannot control was heart breaking. I have done a couple of projects over the years. I have done one for Champion Dream Builders, an organisation that helps underprivileged children in Zimbabwe to get basic education. I partnered with them to fundraise towards this cause. Now I am working on my own project called Prevention of Academic Disruptions for School Girls.
ND: And what is the aim of that particular project?
AM: Its aim is to help prevent girls from staying at home due to lack of personal health hygiene resources, such as sanitary pads. Disadvantaged girls can miss out on school for up to three months a year, that is a term. Sanitary towels have sadly been categorised as luxurious goods. Menstruation is not a choice and having sanitary towels should not be a privilege, especially if it affects girls’ education. It is a right!
ND: What steps have you taken so far to address that problem?
AM: I recently donated sanitary towels and underwear to Samahuru’s girls in Tsholotsho. The school has about 125 girls. It is definitely not enough as we know sanitary towels are only used once, so there is really a lot more work to be done. We should allow these girls to dream and not worry about the unchangeable, which is their cycle.
ND: What inspired you to undertake this project?
AM: The Prevention of Academic Disruption of School Girls was inspired by the need to help the girl child. Women education in Zimbabwe is facing a crisis due to lack of basic hygiene products. Some of these primary school or high school girls end up resorting to things like child marriages and or prostitution just because they never got a fair shot in life, because they are poor.
ND: Why did you choose Samahuru?
AM: It was actually not my choice, but the school actually chose me and I just said, here I am. It was the headmaster, Muziwandile Dube, who reached out to me, after my work came to his attention, seeking assistance if I could help his pupils with sanitary towels.
ND: What do you want to achieve with this project in the next five years?
AM: In five years, the Prevention of Academic Disruption for School Girls will no longer be just a project. It will be a full-blown non-profit organisation.
The need is bigger than the project, so there is need for expansion. Looking at the current economic situation in Zimbabwe, we can agree that it is only getting worse. My dream would be to see Prevention of Academic Disruption for School Girls do more in Zimbabwe and not only for one school at a time.
ND: What is your message to other people who are interested to partner you in that cause?
AM: Missing out school because of menstrual cycle is wrong. It is possible for girls to miss up to 11 weeks, which equates to about three months. Young women quickly fall behind, which often results in them dropping out of school. This can lead to unsafe and unwanted situations. It is a vicious cycle of poverty.
This problem can easily be solved by providing feminine hygiene products to such women. We cannot turn a blind eye and hope that someone somewhere will come through for our sisters and daughters. With just $20 a girl is afforded an undisrupted school year.
ND: What are your words of inspiration to the girl child, especially those who are marginalised?
AM: You did not choose what kind of a background to be born into, but you can still push for your goals and rewrite your future. Never ever take a “no” for an answer. It is definitely not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. I would want to thank everyone who has supported Prevention of Academic Disruption for School Girls so far, because I would not have come this far and done so much without them, and I pray we do more together. Special thanks go to a fellow student, to Beth Conway, Brian Vollmert and his class of nine students who believed in me and helped me jumpstart this.