For the first time in its history, the Mrs Universe contest will take place on African soil. The glitzy event will be staged in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa on Saturday, with 84 participants competing for the crown at the Durban International Convention Centre.
Durban, the host city for this global empowerment event, is known for its African, Indian and colonial influences. The city's rich heritage will provide the backdrop to the event, which also serves to raise awareness of issues affecting women and children around the world.
On Wednesday the Mrs Universe contestants, Non-Profit Organisations, schools and members of the public, marched against gender-based violence, child abuse and human trafficking.
The #OneVoice protest took place in Durban and simultaneous peaceful protests will be held across the globe to highlight the concerns over child abuse and gender-based violence. Mrs Universe contests from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, India, U.S.A, Ukraine, North Asia and Gibraltar to name a few, have organised #OneVoice marches in their home countries to coincide with the South African event.
Each contestant is accompanied by family, supporters and members of the media, tapping into the theme: Empowering Women, Creating Change, Mrs Universe 2017 unites and celebrates married women between the ages of 25 and 45, who are doing phenomenal work to uplift and enhance their local communities through CSI initiatives, business development and global trade opportunities.
In addition to showcasing Durban and South Africa as a must-visit tourist destination, Mrs Universe 2017 will showcase local artists, dancers and entertainers to a worldwide audience and provide a global catwalk for local fashion designers to exhibit their unique creations.
“Unlike other pageants, Mrs Universe is purpose-driven, highlighting real concerns and areas for positive change,” says Mrs Universe 2017 hosting director: Africa, Tracey-Anne Aggett.
“The global driving message of the event, namely women empowerment and women’s rights, comes at a time when South Africans are uniting against crimes against women and urging society stakeholders to create more awareness and take more action to protect our women and children. This pageant pools together women from all backgrounds, all of whom have overcome challenges to bring about positive changes in their respective communities.”
Aggett is a tireless campaigner for women empowerment and plays an integral role in projects that improve the lives of women and children in South Africa.
“The overarching mission of this pageant is to empower women and create change. Strengthen a woman, and you strengthen the world,” she adds.
Named First Runner-up at the Mrs Universe 2016 event in China and the winner of the Mrs Universe 2016 Charity award, Aggett, a former Mrs Kwa-Zulu Natal, won over the International Mrs Universe organising committee with her charitable projects and vision for the continent and has been awarded the right to host Mrs Universe around Africa for the next 10 years.
CSI is a crucial part of the pageant therefore contestants visited local schools in and around Durban to engage with young women and girls about the importance of education and self-development.
The pageant boasts some stylish African beauties such as Mrs Gabon, Gwen Madiba, a TV host, global entrepreneur and a human and women’s rights activist both in her home country in central Africa and in her ‘adopted’ home, Canada. Among her many entrepreneurial ventures, Gwen is the founder of the Safara African Print Fashion Show, that celebrates various African cultures while raising funds for various causes that directly touch women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Gabon.
“I strongly believe that it is only by coming together as one nation that we can bring powerful change in the world,” says Gwen.
Gwen is the recipient of several awards in recognition of her stoic efforts to empower women and children and was listed in the Women’s Executive Network list of 2010 Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.
Nigeria’s contestant, 35-year old Faith Ifeoma Ogaga, has woven her love for bright colours and creativity into a successful career as a fashion designer.
“My philosophy has always been ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it as long as you keep working hard towards it’” says the mother of two from Delta State, Nigeria.
The entrepreneur is also passionate about giving back and volunteers at a local centre for widows where she shares her skills to empower the women to be self-sufficient.
The theme of Empowering Women, Creating Change featured prominently in every activity leading up to the Mrs Universe World Final.