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Zozibini Tunzi, Miss South Africa 2019, won hearts across the world with her powerful speech about representation, visibility, leadership and investing in girls. She was crowned Miss Universe 2019.
Image supplied by Miss SA.
Filles et Femmes

The Winner of Miss Universe 2019 Represents a Victory for All Girls


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Celebrating women of all shapes and sizes helps to show girls that they do not have to shrink themselves to fit into society. This is especially important in inspiring girls to be comfortable in their skin — which goes a long way in helping girls become women who are confident of their place in the world. You can join us here to take actions that support the UN’s Global Goal 5, and the mission to end extreme poverty.

Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi has just been crowned Miss Universe 2019, and it’s a moment about which many people, especially girls and women, can be proud.

Tunzi is the first black South African to win the Miss Universe crown, and many people online are celebrating her win as a victory for girls across South Africa and Africa more widely.

With her dark skin and natural, unstraightened hair, Tunzi can be a role model for girls across the continent.

In her speech, Tunzi said she knows what her presence on global stages like Miss Universe represents. She also spoke about the value of teaching girls about leadership.

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me; with my kind of skin, and kind of hair isn’t considered beautiful,” she said.

Her words are as powerful as they are affirming. Colourism (the discrimination of black people with darker complexion), representation, and inclusive definitions of beauty have become a global conversation in recent years.

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In October, the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o published a children’s book called Sulwe, which is about a girl who wishes her dark skin was lighter.

Meanwhile, skin lightening is still popular in Africa with a reported 40% of all women bleaching their skin. This is despite health dangers that include the risk of skin cancer and psychosis, according to warnings from the World Health Organisation.

Other reports state that as many as 77% of Nigerian women, and 35% of women in South Africa use skin-bleaching products.

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“I think that it is time that stops,” Tunzi continued. “I want children to look at me, and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

As well as being an inspiration for many girls and women who feel unseen, Tunzi won hearts with her powerful talk on leadership.

In fact, when asked what’s the most important thing we should be teaching girls, Tunzi said leadership.

“It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time, not because we don’t want to but because of what society has labelled women to be,” she said.

“I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and we should be given every opportunity.”

She went on to say that the Miss Universe and Miss South Africa platforms are “some of the few platforms that actually give women the ability to lead, and the sooner we start looking at it as a leadership position, the less it’s something that’s taboo and the more we can start moving forward as women.”