Globalisation has made humanity to evolve in remarkable ways. However, there is still a great deal of inequality and misunderstanding that exist globally. Over the decades, Africa has bore the brunt of this misunderstanding.
According to Irene Ng’endo, the reigning Miss Africa and JKUAT’s Mathematics and Computer Science 3rd year student, myths being peddled about Africa are rooted in misinformation, lack of knowledge and stereotypes and can be a danger to the advancement of society.
“Africa has for so long been defined by her weaknesses and challenges and that has honestly been crippling to us, we have gotten to believe this narrative about us, we have lost hope in our continent and if you look keenly we are trying to flee from our own land,” Irene, observes.
Irene was crowned Miss Africa, December 27, 2019, in a hotly contested competition in Calabar, Nigeria, bagging a cool 35,000 dollars (Kshs. 3,533,250) and an all-expense-paid trip to Malaysia.
The beauty pageant themed, Humanity, hosted over 30 African beauties and brains across Africa. As the reigning Miss Africa, Irene is determined to tackle the politics of pity that has laden humanitarian projects all over Africa. She believes that portraying people at their worst is crippling to them because it takes away their story of strength and optimism.
“They aim to portray communities and individuals at their most sympathetic, and in as much as I understand why this can be considered an effective method, I strongly feel it is amongst the reasons that regardless of all these existing projects people still feel the world is a dying world,” says Irene.
Using her new found platform, Irene is resolute to advocate for Africans to be proud and express themselves, bringing back the continent’s dignity and strength thus debunking the myths being touted about Africa.
Enthusiastic about theatre and art exhibition, the newly crowned queen says she will use the prize money to set up an art centre where people around the continent will come to share and exchange cultural experiences. It is her hope that she can use the centre and platform to enlighten the youth who have lost hope in Africa as a vibrant place full of vast opportunities.
“If only we can appreciate and believe in what we have as a continent then we can leverage on the opportunities we have to better humanity,” says Irene.
Miss Africa plans to document the cultural experiences around the continent in form of short films and documentaries for sustainability and preservation.
As a Mathematics and Computer Science student, Irene works with a non-profit organisation called MAKAYA Hub as a goodwill ambassador. MAKAYA Hub is a technological platform geared towards safe motherhood in marginalized communities in Kenya and across Africa.
Passionate about helping the less fortunate in society, Irene wants to use the skills gained in class to improve the maternal and child health in the continent. “As a hub, we envisions a Kenya and Africa where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is celebrated, and every life is accounted for.”
Apart from the Miss Africa crown, Irene holds the Miss Progress Kenya 2019. In September 2019, using MAKAYA hub as her project, she represented Kenya in the Miss Progress International in Puglia, Italy where she emerged top 10 in the pageantry. She was also Miss JKUAT 2018/2019.
As a parting shot, Irene says “there is nothing more human than dignifying the people around us and showing them we believe in them and their potential.”