South Africa already knows Shudufhadzo Musida’s passion lies in mental health advocacy, and now the world is getting to know it too.

Back at the Miss World pageant event in 2021, the former Miss South Africa and mental health champion won the Beauty With a Purpose (BWAP) title, along with five other contestants, from India, the Philippines, England, Kenya, and the United States. 

Each of the contestants presented a project close to their hearts, for example, the contestant from the Philippines, Tracy Maureen Perez, focused on providing relief for victims of the catastrophic Typhoon Odette — which hit the region in December 2021. 

But for Musida, her project focused on her work on mental health, an issue for which she’s been a passionate advocate for years. She chose to spend her reign as Miss South Africa championing mental health awareness, through her Mindful Movement. 

In February 2021, she launched #MindfulMondays — a series of live streamed discussions happening weekly on her Instagram. On #MindfulMondays, Musida talks with experts on an array of topics related to mental health including depression, anxiety and trauma, and PTSD. 

“The biggest thing in prioritizing mental health is prioritizing mental health education,” Musida told Global Citizen. “It is the entry point to removing the stigma that stifles sustainable development.”

Statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) found that one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression, or substance abuse — a figure that doesn’t include conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

But the numbers aren’t a true reflection of the reality, according to Cassey Chambers, operations director of the SADAG, because access to mental health support and assistance isn’t easily available, or is avoided because of stigma. 

To further her advocacy towards mental health awareness, Musida also wrote a children’s book called, Shudu Finds Her Magic, published in September 2021. The plot was inspired by Musida’s own childhood and explores the theme of bullying — something she experienced as a child after she moved to a new province and transferred to a new school. The book has been published in six of the official South African languages — English, Venda, Sesotho, IsiZulu, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans.

Global Citizen spoke with Musida about her book, which she described as an introduction to mental health management for young children. “I am so proud of my book Shudu Finds Her Magic, which I used with the aim of introducing mental health education to children in a way that is palatable to them."

“You get to hear their opinions when you give them a seat at the table when discussing the foundation of most societal problems,” she told us. “I get to use the book as an entry point to have these discussions.”

Childhood and adolescence are vital stages for growth and brain development that influence the rest of your life. According to the World Health Organisation, 10% of children and adolescents experience some sort of mental disorder — but most do not seek or receive proper treatment or care. 

Teaching children about mental health is essential to removing the stigma that comes with dealing with a mental health issue, allows children to understand how to navigate these issues, and empowers them to lead fulfilling lives.

During the month of March, Global Citizens in South Africa can win a copy of Shudu Finds Her Magic for the children in their lives, or even for themselves. All you have to do to get a chance to win this Reward is take action with us and use your points to enter for the Reward here.

Meanwhile, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdowns, Musida continued to use her title as Miss South Africa and her platforms to continue raising awareness about the importance of taking care of your mental health. 

“Beauty pageants have long been a contested part of our culture: some see them as a hangover from a far more patriarchal era, while others defend them for helping women of all ages to feel more confident, to know their self-worth and make a contribution in areas that they are passionate about,” Musida told Global CItizen, explaining why she chose pageantry to help advance her advocacy.

“The really crucial part of winning the crown is the platform that being Miss South Africa gives me, a platform that allows my voice to be amplified and to be heard on a subject matter that is very close to my heart: mental well-being,” she continued. “It is a platform where, if used wisely, can help women create their own seat at the table.”

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