Managing the country’s population needs innovation and as the organisers of this year’s Miss Malawi Pageant observed, the population growth needs young people such as beauty queens to champion issues affecting their reproductive health rights.
“We envision a Miss Malawi who will not only inspire young girls, but also initiate campaigns that will sway sexually active young people into safer behaviours,” said Teresa Ndanga, the spokesperson for the 2017 Miss Malawi pageant’s organisers- Nation Publications Limited (NPL) and Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).
For the first time in six years, Malawi finally picked its new queen, Cecilia Khofi, to carry the Miss Malawi mantle for the next year.
The 23-year-old nutritionist graduate from Chancellor College will uphold the objectives of this year’s Miss Malawi theme of raising a voice against population growth in the country.
She emerged winner over 13 other contestants with Nthanda Manduwi, 21, as the first princess while Yvonne Kamanga, 24, was the second princess.
According to the country’s population data sheet compiled by Population Reference Bureau (PRB), in just over 40 years, Malawi’s population has increased from four million people in 1966 to 13.1 million in 2008. It now stands at about 17 million.
PRB says the country’s population will continue to rise steadily given the high fertility rate of 4.5 which means that even if the fertility rate declines from the 2010 level of 5.7 to 4.6 by 2017, the population will still grow to 26 million in 2030.
Khofi describes herself as a very ambitious and hard working young woman. She has always dreamed of becoming Miss Malawi and making a difference in other people’s lives through the title and admits she was very happy when her name was mentioned as the winner.
“What pleased me even more is that the First Lady Gertrude Mutharika was the one who read out my name. I felt humbled. I feel fortunate that I will be an ambassador for something that I am genuinely passionate and proud of,” she says.
The fifth born of six children in her family has always had an interest in beauty pageants and Miss Malawi is not the first beauty pageant she participated in.
“When I was 10 years old, I was crowned Miss Confidence at a local beauty pageant. I went on to become Miss Providence at 14 while I was in secondary school and again Miss Chancellor College at 19 years old,” she says.
The beauty queen says she decided to contest for Miss Malawi Beauty Pageant to learn and contribute to the country.
She admits that this year’s Miss Malawi office comes with an overwhelming, but challenging package. She is quick to say that she plans to partner and work hand-in-hand with different ministries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in developing the country and reaching out to the helpless and vulnerable people, especially girls.
“In relation to the theme, as one way of curbing overpopulation, I plan to promote and champion girls’ education by inspiring and empowering them attain higher education and enrolling teenage mothers back into school. I intend to work with her the First Lady on girl empowerment projects and also with the Beautify Malawi [Beam] Trust project as a way of conserving our environment,” says the young woman who currently holds a job in the Ministry of Health – Blantyre District Health Office.
Khofi is also a human rights activist working with several organisations in fighting against gender-based-violence (GBV) and human trafficking which she claims has given her great exposure to work with girls of different ages and from different communities.
Compassion is one of the virtues she believes in and a reason that inspired her to join the race for the Miss Malawi crown.
“I was motivated to join Miss Malawi Beauty Pageant to help others and become a role model to girls who struggle to find someone to look up to. I knew this office would give me a chance to reach out to and help a lot of people,” says the young model.
The journey to Miss Malawi has also taught Khofi the importance of being empowered.
“It is crucial to empower more young women to push boundaries. Every girl has a dream, but it takes courage and hard work to make that dream come true,” she says.
Khofi advises young women not to be intimidated in the course of fighting for their dreams, believing that they can do anything they put their minds to.
Khofi was born and raised in Blantyre, but comes from the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kamange in Nkhotakota.
She went to Sacred Heart Private Primary School in Zingwangwa Township where she was top of her class and was selected to Providence Girls Secondary School in Mulanje.
Khofi was later selected to University of Malawi’s Chancellor College where she studied Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition graduating in 2015.
The enthusiast describes her family as an average one that is also very loving and supportive.
“We are a family of six; four girls and two boys. All of my siblings are talented and focused on what they want to achieve and we make sure we support each others’ dreams,” she says.
As winner, Khofi went away with a Nissan Tiida valued at K5 million courtesy of this year’s organisers of the Miss Malawi pageant.
The pageant was hatched with the idea of using modeling as a professional vehicle of managing the country’s soaring population.