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The aim of Miss Earth South Africa is to develop young environmentalists that can be active and that will become decision makers and leaders

Having started from humble beginnings and big dreams, the Miss Earth South Africa journey has been remarkable. This organisation has scooped several awards and accolades over the years, both nationally and internationally. Catherine Constantinides and Ella Bella Leite have a deep understanding and knowledge of the environment and the challenges that our globe is faced with, and this knowledge is coupled with an unrivalled passion. They have addressed summits, climate conferences, and international gatherings across the globe. They have engaged with presidents, ambassadors, and ministers. They have interacted with diplomats, children, and communities across the continent. Activists to the core they have left no stone unturned as they strive to promote the environmental agenda.

The aim has been to develop young environmentalists that can be active and that will become decision makers and leaders, both in South Africa and across the globe. The aim is to inspire and encourage young women around our beautiful country to be involved and to be active citizens, making better decisions and changing mindsets, as we build our nation. They often say: “It starts with us and as women we are the movers and shakers of communities, so it’s up to us to shake things up and get people thinking about ways in which they can help Mother Earth. When we look after Mother Earth, she is then able to sustain and look after us. Sustainability must be at the basis of our daily lives, habits and consumer choices.”

“Two decades; that’s unbelievable. I look over my shoulder at the years gone by, and I can’t believe, the long and amazing road that Ella and I have walked. The journey has been filled with the eager faces of young women, eager to learn and to live eco conscious lives. This initiative has allowed us to visit every corner of our land and to understand the environmental challenges, which are impacted by socio-economic circumstances while speaking of Climate Change and looking at the challenges effecting communities. We have made a difference; and I say that with humility and gratitude to those that have supported us. We have always recognised and understood the challenges that our people and society are faced with. It has been twenty years that have been filled with memories, actions and change,” says Catherine Constantinides; Co-Director of the Miss Earth South Africa Leadership Programme.

The organisation has been a spark of youth activism, volunteerism, and stewardship in environmental awareness. The past two decades have seen them bringing together young South Africans of diverse social and cultural backgrounds to contribute their share to saving planet earth. Their contribution through dialogue, action, and youth-friendly activities have added a voice to the cry for sustainability, and the protection of the environment and conservation, in the wake of the climate emergency that we face. Some of the most recent campaigns have been with a clear and passionate focus on waste, food security, climate change education, urban conservation, and ocean and marine protection.

The organisation boasts some exciting and impressive key moments and achievements which include their work across the continent, including countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Egypt, Zambia, Algeria, and Mozambique, to name but a few.

The initiatives are run alongside municipalities and corporate partners that are seeking to impact the communities around them, whilst inputting and growing these young women; who work towards a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable future.

The programme is proudly endorsed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Department of Tourism, and Brand South Africa. The organisation recently announced their renewed partnership with Southern Sun Hotels, whom they have been in partnership with for the past ten years.

“By working with young women throughout the country, we are developing a generation of role models who take action on the ground and inspire lasting positive change in our communities. Environmental education and awareness are critical in combatting climate change and the legacy of the programme, which speaks for itself, is evident in the results of the many effective projects we have initiated over the last two decades,” Constantinides said.

Candy Tothill, head of corporate affairs, brands, and marketing for Southern Sun, added: “Using natural resources responsibly and minimising waste is important to our long-term sustainability, and we make every effort to manage our hotels with due care to limit our impact on the environment. Awareness and education are important to the delivery of our environmental management objectives and our partnership with Miss Earth South Africa has proven to be an effective means of assisting with this.”

The Miss Earth South Africa organisation have to date planted 53 218 trees. In celebration of Earth Day earlier this year, a further 20 trees were added to this number and former winners went out and planted trees at Ormonde Primary School, in the south of Johannesburg. Wildroute sponsored the trees while GebCo provided compost to ensure good soil for the sustainability of these trees. For World Environment Day, another 20 trees will be planted at Matiwane Combined School in Orange Farm. This is a school that the organisation has worked with and partnered with for almost two decades, running environmental education programmes in the school and greening programmes over the years.

The Earth Team believe that in living history, climate change will have been the greatest threat to nature and humanity. This should not be underestimated. Our heavy reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas has polluted our atmosphere, this challenge grows daily and the quality of the world deteriorates at a constant pace. These effects are evident across the globe, and can be measured against the rise of sea levels, droughts, floods, and heat waves. The impact is ultimately felt by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. It affects food, energy, water security, and threatens vitally important species, their habitats and ecosystems.

“Through the work that is done on the ground, we have to be more aware and conscious, both in the things we purchase, and in the things we do. Be aware of decisions being made by your family, community, your country and other countries. We are a network of people that are constantly impacting one another. Climate change is real, and it is now. Our children and our earth are going to pay the ultimate price. I believe that we can change the world. I believe that it is our responsibility to make a difference and to bring about change,” said Constantinides.

Other partners and affiliated associates include: Skin Renewal, 321 Systems Tech Specialist, SERVEST, Eco-Monkey Recycling, Panier Des Sens, Europa Art, Samsonite, 54 on Bath, Newsclip Media Monitoring, Wildroute, GebCo, 3Sixty Organic Compost, Jenni Gault International, David Green Eyewear, and Interwaste Waste Management Solution.

In the words of Dr Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who will decide, where to go…”

Catherine Constantinides is an humanitarian, international human rights defender, climate and social justice activist, Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellow, and Mandela Washington Fellow.

This is a landmark year as the organisation marks two decades. The search is on for a powerful and capable young woman that will be part of the cohort of young earth warriors that mark the start of the next decade of environmental impact by the organisation. Young South African women who want to be part of this exciting platform and journey as they learn, grow, and connect with their communities and leave lasting footprints of change can log on the Miss Earth South Africa social media platforms for more details: @MissEarth_SA.

Join the initiative and help communities to change behaviour and mind-sets for the betterment of the environment and for a more sustainable future for all.

For more information, follow the organisation across social media platforms on Twitter and Instagram (@missearth_sa), their Facebook page (Miss Earth South Africa) or send a WhatsApp to the following 082 5050 664.