Africa Day was celebrated on Wednesday, 25 May, and what better way for former and current Miss Earth South Africa participants to recognise it than to plant a tree.
The Miss Earth South Africa organisation was at Midrand Primary School in Gauteng to celebrate Africa Day with learners by helping them plant 15 trees on the school grounds. Learners were also taught to stop littering, to recycle and to have pride in their environment.
Director of Miss Earth South Africa, Catherine Constantinides, instilled the message “Waste stops with me” and encouraged learners to take it to their homes and communities. She also told learners to be proud of Africa. “Some people call it Africa. We call it home,” she said.
Spokesperson for Miss Earth South Africa Ella Bella Constantinides said the catchphrase is meant to teach children to take responsibility of waste and recycling. “[Waste stops with me] is where we understand that energy waste stops with me, food waste stops with me and water waste stops with me. Learners must stop and ask, ‘How can I take this into my home? How do I tell my parents what it is we need to be doing at home?’”
Planting trees in the school was part of the lesson teaching learners to take responsibility for their environment, said Ella Bella. “Every day, learners will pass the trees knowing they planted them and they’re taking ownership of them.”
Waste management service provider for Johannesburg, Pikitup, partnered with Miss Earth South Africa at the event. Two Pikitup mascots, known as the Eco-Rangers, were on hand to teach learners to keep their school clean using the catchphrase, “Reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink”.
Fifty-four trees for 54 nations
Ella Bella said the Miss Earth South Africa organisation planted 54 trees in different parts of Johannesburg on the day, signifying the number of countries in Africa. “The 54th tree was planted at 54 on Bath, and that tree was planted to create a bit of awareness: 54 trees and 54 countries that make up the African continent. It means people want to plant trees and get out into nature and create something special.”
She said the event should remind all Africans that we need to take care of our immediate environment. “We need to make such a noise that people should understand that we’re fighting for our home. Our home is Africa, it is South Africa; our home is the Earth.
“We need to understand that we need to look after our planet but before that we have to look after our people and the people on this continent are important to us.”
Miss Earth South Africa empowers women
Ella Bella said that as an organisation, Miss Earth South Africa seeks to empower women through environmental education. “We need to look after our immediate environment. We need to understand that every action in South Africa has a ripple effect, not just in the country but in Africa as well.”
One of the 2016 participants from Gauteng, Bhijal Parbhoo, said she decided to enter the pageant as she feels she wants to make a real difference to South Africa. Parbhoo, who runs a women’s and kids’ wear store, said she loves putting a smile on people’s faces. “I feel there has to be someone to make a difference in South Africa and I really want to make a contribution to it.”