OPINION | Education and mental health advocate: Miss SA Shudufhadzo Musida has served well
When Miss SA Shudufhadzo Musida hands over her crown to the next reigning queen in two weeks, South Africans will witness with her what will be a full-circle moment.
On October 24 last year, Musida stood boldly on the Miss SA stage and committed herself to raise awareness about mental health and wellness and, one year later, she has achieved that and more, helping thousands in the process.
In a historic moment, Musida was asked by former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi how she would use her Miss SA platform to respond to social ills. The question came as the global community witnessed mass demonstrations against racism and gender-based violence.
Armed with facts and filled with passion, Musida won many hearts with her strong stance on the importance of raising awareness about mental health issues and promoting education as tools for empowerment.
“It is important for education to be prioritised in our society [and] to change the narratives about mental health that exist. We have a collective responsibility to destigmatise and inform how we, as a society, view mental health.
“For any change to come about in our communities, we need to tackle the mind, the powerhouse. If the mind isn’t conquered, we will go nowhere. As Miss SA, I will be the representative of the beauty, resilience and diversity that exists in this country,” she said.
Musida could not have chosen a more pressing issue to tackle than mental health.
According to the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), 20% of the population will suffer from a depressive illness in their lives, a condition more prevalent in women than men.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) further warns that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29 years.
Since launching #MindfulMondays in partnership with Sadag, Musida continues to lead discussions on issues such as bipolar, depression and anxiety.
During her final walk on the Miss SA stage, Musida will not be alone. She'll carry thousands of children who will no longer suffer in silence in their battle against bullying
In one of the discussions, she opened up about her struggle with mental health, the result of being bullied for seven years while she was still in school. She continued to experience cyber bullying on social media during her reign.
Throughout, Musida has been graceful and remained focused on fulfilling the pledge she made during her crowning.
True to her word, she obtained her BA Honours in international relations from Wits University in July. In September, she launched her debut children's book Shudu Finds Her Magic, in which she details her experience with bullying and how she navigated seven years living in isolation as a result.
This book is a legacy that will affirm young children who experience bullying and other forms of abuse and encourage them to speak up.
On December 16, Musida will represent SA on the Miss World stage and she will submit the book for the ‘Beauty With a Purpose’ project, a charity arm of the organisation.
Shortly after her Miss SA crowning, Musida attributed her victory to women who came before her and had lifted her with prayers and words of affirmation.
During her final walk on the Miss SA stage on October 16, Musida will not be alone. She will be carrying thousands of children who will no longer suffer in silence in their battle against bullying.
She will be carrying mental health warriors who had not found their voice until she spoke up for them and championed their plight. Musida has been graceful and she served the nation well.