PROVO — Wars and fatal diseases continue to tear through Africa, but women from that continent are using a Utah pageant to bring attention to their solutions.
The contestants of the upcoming Miss Africa Utah pageant have suffered traumatic experiences in their lives, but they want to make sure no one else suffers. Many of the contestants have decided to use their platforms during the contest to create awareness and provide help for the social and economical problems in their native African countries.
Mountain View High School senior, Catherine Balibuno, is the contestant representing Congo. She said she has painful memories of her native country, and that the government is too ineffective to stop the problems there. Balibuno said that she is competing in the pageant to help bring more attention to her people's plight in Congo.
"So many women have been raped, and it's just really, really sad because our government won't do anything about that," Balibuno said. "It's still a rough place. Seeing your mother raped, or (the soldiers) will make your brother rape your mother, and it happens right in front of your eyes. I want to be able to do something about that."
Miss Africa Utah Competition:
- Where: Utah Valley University Grande Ballroom
- When: Friday, March 29
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Price: $12 online, $15 at the door
An AIDS epidemic made an orphan out of another contestant, Amelia Belchior, at the age of 8. Belchior and her brothers, ages 2 and 11, lived in their father's unfinished house as they fended for themselves in Mozambique.
"Although I feel it was hard for me, I feel like it was 10 times tougher for my little brother, who probably does not even remember my parents' faces," Belchior said.
Belchior was adopted and brought to the United States in 2008. She is now studying at LDS Business College. Her platform in the pageant will be to help fight the United Nations' program of teaching sexual education to 4- and 5-year-old children in Mozambique. Belchior said the program encourages promiscuity which she believes deepens the AIDS crisis.
"AIDS is not something we can play with, so do not be involved in promiscuous sexual behavior," Belchior said. "This will not only affect you, but also your children."
The Miss Africa Utah Pageant will be held at the Grande Ballroom at Utah Valley University on Friday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online for $12 or for $15 at the door.