Sep 13, 2013, 11:35 AM
A budding Gambian lady has her hat in the ring as she battles to grab the much-coveted Miss Africa Washington State crown.
Maria Cora is one of fourteen beauties drawn from the continent tussling to win the pageant billed to take place in Seattle September 3rd.
To lay hands on the crown, the 20-year-old will need to ward off competition from the shortlisted thirteen beauties, including fellow countrywoman Sonia Mahoi.
Among those battling for the gong are Ivory Coast’s Nancy Tourè-Yapo and Mahanfa Madina Kone, Zimbabwe’s Andile Nobuhle Mpofu, Tanzania’s Ruzeda Antoinette Fields, South Sudan Nyamal Both, Sierra Leone’s Ruth Jemie Kamara, Salome Munyaka and Jessica Benson from Kenya, Rukiya Elmi from Somalia, Gabon’s Jeanns Jackson, Rodina Gebremariam of Ethiopia and South Sudan’s Nyaruach Dedoch, as well as Sonia Mahoi from Gambia.
Miss Africa Washington State Pageant founded January this year by Pageant queen Zeynab Koroma-cum activist and humanitarian, offers budding Washington State-based African women with brains, beauty, leadership and diversity, chance to raise awareness on social issues namely domestic violence including the most detested Female Genital Mutilation.
To sway judges’ mind, models would need to not only elegantly catwalk, but present social issues of significance.
A nursing student, Cora who began modeling seven years ago, at age 13, intends to harp on early child marriage – brining to sharp focus the ills of the menace she chooses to dub as a ‘silent problem’.’
‘I saw this pageant, as an opportunity to raise my voice, and be backed by such a prestigious organization, in order to bring awareness, results and evolution to my country,’ the up-and-coming dazzling model, begins.
‘I recently had the privilege of visiting The Gambia this past year, and seeing all the wonderful yet devastating things that were taking place. I thought about what it was that I wanted to stand for, what could be an umbrella platform that could not only target specific issues, but also have major effects on surrounding issues as well.’
The ex-cheerleader and track runner-turned model continued: ‘I chose to bring awareness to the detrimental effects of early childhood marriage. Now in The Gambia as with many African countries, early childhood marriage is what I like to call a silent problem.
The issue is there, it has its terrible effects, yet it is difficult to speak on and to essentially “fix” because it isn’t a solid issue, such as HIV or malaria etc.
That is why I need to work harder, in order to show people that this issue is not taboo, it is real and it is harming our young women. This epidemic is preventing them from rising to their full potential.
Some of these girls being married off, don’t even know what sex is sometimes, are not even sure of what a period is, yet they are told they have to go tend to a man twice or even thrice their age for the rest of their lives; many of which marriages don’t last’
On should she clutch the accolade, Mariama, a child advocate and frequent volunteer at homeless shelters located in her residence Seattle Washington, said: ‘Should I win this crown for The Gambia, I will return home, and liberate my women, teach them what I know, and create support groups where they will get the necessary education. I intend to open up more opportunities for jobs by opening a hospital that can actually help sick people, because the hospitals in Gambia need upgrading and that is from a firsthand experience.
Employ these women, give them a voice and restore the power they were stripped of many years ago. Marriage is a beautiful thing when done right, when both parties have a say, marriage is not meant to give your daughter another father.
The goal is to help this generation but to prevent it from happening to the next generation; it is time to take a stand. The first step is for them to acknowledge that there is a problem. Let’s raise our children not brides.
Elucidating on her plans for the future upon winning the pageant, the Melanin sensation doubling as a beauty Youtube blogger, said, ‘I have the hopes of opening a beauty parlor in Gambia to employ women who have been affected by early child marriages and to give them a salary they can live off and support their families.’
Mariama is a graduate of North Seattle College and Bellevue College.