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Pageant empowers girls with disabilities

 

Mohalenyane Phakela

A CALL has been made for Basotho to support initiatives meant to uplift disabled people to ensure they are fully integrated into society.

Addressing a press conference this past week at the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Committee offices on Wednesday, National Paralympic Committee of Lesotho (NAPCOL) Chairperson Thabiso Ratsoane said a lot of disabled people were unable to engage in activities to better themselves due to lack of support.

The press briefing was meant to give feedback on the Miss Disability 2016 pageant NAPCOL held in conjunction with the Beauty Pageant Association of Lesotho at Lehakoe Club last Saturday.

Forty eight young women with various physical challenges took part in the unique beauty pageant and competed in three categories; Miss Visual, Miss physical and Miss Deaf.

Moretlo Letšoara was crowned Miss Visual 2016, with Mahlape Ramokhitli and Keneuoe Masaile clinching the first and second princess titles respectively.

Miss Physical 2016 was Puleng Bulane, with first princess Thakanyane Shokhoe and second princess Lerato Leboea.

The winner of the Miss Deaf 2016 contest was Makhabo Seme with the first and second princesses being Thakane Tšeole and Malehloa Chefa respectively.

Seme also earned the right to represent Lesotho at the Miss Deaf Africa pageant slated for Cape Town, South Africa next month.

Ratsoane said the event was a success even though their objective of raising money funds for athletes participating in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in September was not achieved. He said they only managed to raise M21 000 which was less than the M22 300 they had used to organise the event.

“The aim of the pageant was mainly to raise funds for the organisation as we are preparing to send two people to compete in the upcoming Paralympic games in Brazil this year and also Miss Deaf 2016 who will compete in the Miss Deaf Africa pageant in July,” said Ratsoane.

“Although we were unable to raise money from the event, we are excited that it raised awareness on the plight of disabled people.”

He said a lot of physically challenged people in the country were ostracised and unable to reach their potential.

“We have so many disabled people in the country who are hidden indoors by their families so that they cannot interact with other people,” Ratsoane said.

“However, we are pleased with the large crowd since some of the people who came did not even know we exist.”

He also bemoaned the lack of sponsorship for the event from the private sector, saying the only meaningful support they received was from Lesotho Flour Mills which gave product hampers to the three winners.

Royal Beauty Salon pledged to provide the winners with three months manicure services, while Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Likeleli Tampane donated M200.

Lesotho Flour Mills marketing officer, Bofihla Neko, said the lack of sponsorship was disconcerting considering that physically-challenged people were the most in need of assistance.

“It is so sad that disabled people are the least supported while those with the capacity of doing things by themselves are getting more support,” he said.

“I urge the private sector and other well-wishers to look at disabled people in a different way and they will reap positive results.”

Reigning Miss Deaf Africa, Tlhokomelo Sabole, lauded the organisers of the event saying it was a meaningful step in ensuring disabled people get recognition.

“It was my first time to see disabled people getting such support and being given the opportunity to participate in the pageantry sector,” she said.

“I am grateful for the initiative and also hoping that Makhabo will be able to defend the Miss Deaf Africa title next month in Cape Town. I promise to assist her to the best of my ability.”

For her part, Bulane said she was elated for being able to participate in a beauty pageant.

“It was my first time contesting in a pageant since I always thought pageantry is for the so-called normal people. I was scared as a first timer, but gained confidence due to the support we received from the cheering crowd,” she said.

“I believe all the contestants were winners because, to me, it was not only about clinching the title, but about the experience which raised our self-esteem.”

The Miss Disability pageant was last held in 2010 but had been discontinued due to lack of funds. The organisers now intend to make it an annual event.

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