Preparing for the big night

 

With all the issues that we are faced with in our country, it is very comforting to see certain individuals rise to the challenge. Most of these people emerge from NGOs, pageants or they’re just good Samaritans seeking to patch up the wounded parts of our beautiful South Africa. Today’s individual is Miss Commonwealth SA 2018 finalist, the beautiful and incredible Shanika Bongela. The Miss Commonwealth SA is not just a typical beauty contest, but a leadership programme that empowers young women with the knowledge to bring change within communities that are in need. The organization initiates projects that are mainly focused on social upliftment.

Shanika is more than just a financial advisor; she is running to become Miss Commonwealth SA 2018. Born and raised in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.Growing up a very curious and inquisitive child, Bongela has always carried an incredible sense of humility and she would do anything see other people happy. Her involvement in sports helped her develop a great sense of confidence, upon realizing that she encouraged other people her age to also take part.Shanika has returned once more to the Miss Commonwealth pageant, after only making it through to the top 5 in 2016. This time she has returned much more confident and readier to take the title home with her.

Shanika has dedicated her time to doing incredible work for charity, such as, adopting the Ikholwa Children’s Home in Roodepoort, giving back to the community of Kliptown in Soweto,and hosting a gala dinner for unemployed youth in Tshepisong. This beautiful lady was, of course, delighted to lend me some of her time.

 

How was it like growing up in Mthatha?

It was quite alright. I grew up in warm and loving home. I was raised by dad throughout my childhood and I didn’t have a mother figure to look up to, but I turned out just alright.

Was the place you grew in the kind of environment that allowed you to explore your curious and inquisitive nature?

Yes, It was, because it kind of helped me learn and become the person that I am today. The people that I interacted with and the experiences that I encountered helped me see how different and unique people are.

You were a first-born child, right? How was that experience for you?

It was okay, but it came with a certain weight, as I had to lead by example for my younger siblings. I had to make sure that my actions were kind, moral and inspirational always!

What were your dreams as a young girl?

As a young girl I had so many dreams, firstly I wanted to be a sportsperson, due to my love for netball. Secondly, I wanted to work in the cabin crew, but that didn’t mean I had lost my love for sports, it was still there. Then third and lastly, I wanted to pursue music. I did manage to touch base on all of these, even if it was for ashort period of time.

How did your love for netball start?

Well, I think deep down I had always had that love for netball, because when I was introduced to it in high school, I just knew that It was meant for me.

What lead to the formation of the “Pink Panthers”

A friend of mine formed the Pink Panthers to provide an activity and a sense of home for other young people our age, that kept them busy and away from all the bad activities in the street. It also helped them unite, learn and empower one another.

Today’s youth is glued to cell phone screens and have little interest in sports, now with your sporting background and enthusiasm what would your advice be to these young people?

I encourage everyone to keep fit and participate in sports or gym if possible, not just young people, but everyone. Sport is very important for one’s health and with that we can have long, healthy and happy lives.

When did your passion for modelling ignite?

I actually started modelling in church events at the age of nine. The passion just grew throughout the years.

You managed to establish a modelling agency called Hope Models and Artist Management, what was the motivation behind that?

I started the Hope Models and Artist Management in 2012 when I was still staying in Limpopo. The main reason behind it was to bring entertainment into the community and to also discover and enhance talent. This led to me bringing people of different and unique characteristic together.

How was it to juggle your studies and a modelling agency? Did those two not conflict?

It was great, and they never conflicted whatsoever. I was still busy with my aviation studies and I had plenty of time to run my agency. I also managed to acquire a lot of sponsors in that time.

The Miss Commonwealth pageant aims to empower young women around the country and bring change within communities. However, there are so many other pageants with the goal, so what exactly makes the Miss Commonwealth any different?

The Miss Commonwealth Pageant runs a fair and transparent competition that aims at building its contestants and instils them with a larger scope of viewing the world they live in. It also focuses on poverty eradication, community upliftment and giving back as much as it can.

What has the Miss Commonwealth pageant achieved so far since its establishment?

The Miss Commonwealth played a role in the Inyanga outreach in Cape Town, it has been responsible for various Cancer and Aids awareness campaigns around the country and the Take a girl child to work initiative.

You have adopted the Ikholwa Children’s Home in Roodepoort, tell me exactly what you have done to uplift and power the children there?

I have donated my time and spent it with those wonderful children. I also provided them with clothes and goodie bags. I aided in the accumulation and donation of books for the library in Soweto, Kliptown that lacked resources.

So you’ve entered the Miss Commonwealth twice, why? What did you want to achieve by going at it again?

I was a 2016 finalist and after that experience I felt so excited and motivated to go back and do it again. I have grown a lot since the first time and I have grown even more now, and I believe things will turn out differently. I am excited and ready for anything!

What are some of the greatest challenges that you have encountered in your life?

I guess the first challenge I’ve experienced was growing up without a mother. I didn’t have a female figure to turn to when I needed advice about certain things that I could not talk to my dad about. The second challenge, I’d say is the financial struggle that deprived me of pursuing my education to the fullest. The third challenge was, moving around a lot. This became a problem for me because I always had to start afresh and readjust and that can be too much when you’re a child. This also led to me falling victim to scams and rape. However, all these negative factors didn’t eliminate the positive ones, such as, meeting inspirational people, like Mr and Mrs Matjeke and also paving the way for me to meet the people that I have come to call family today, my team, Team Shanika. Of course, I can never forget my pillar of strength and support, my dad, Nceba Patrick Nkosiyane.

 

What would you like to be remembered by one day?

I want to be remembered by being an inspiration and a symbol of resilience. I want to remind people that they can conquer any obstacles that stand in their way, just like I have conquered mine. They can conquer theirs too no matter how hard or different they may be.

Do you not perhaps feel that the focus is mostly on girl empowerment than on the boys?

Sometimes that’s the case, however, with the Miss Commonwealth initiative both girls and boys are built and empowered. The Miss Commonwealth focuses on providing a space for boys and girls to grow, learn and of course to have fun by organize Christmas parties.

What are your views on the recent brutal attacks on women? What do you think can be done?

That’s one of the most alarming issues that is facing our communities today and I believe that we need to work together to provide effective and reliable outreach programmes that women can turn to when they feel threatened. Women also need to be trained better on what to do if ever they are confronted by danger from their loved ones or strangers. However, we also need to put our focus on the men in our communities. They are the ones committing such atrocities and we need to understand why they are doing that to the people they claim to love. We need a better understanding if we are to fight this issue effectively.

Do you think pageantry can really make a visible change in communities?

Yes, I believe they can. Well, the Miss Commonwealth pageant definitely can! It provides so much more that empowerment, it provides a larger scope of knowledge on issues that need addressing, it provides networking and training, and producing effective leaders that can tackle any issue.

What is your message to everyone out there who might be going through difficult challenges in life?

Never give up no matter how hard things get. Challenges are not permanent, they can always be overcome and at the end of every challenge we learn something that makes us stronger for the next time we are challenged.

What can we expect from you soon?

With all this new knowledge and skills that I have acquired through this journey you should expect a lot activity from side. I am going to go out there and share everything that I have learned and inspire others to the best of themselves. I have recently just hostedgala dinner and proceeds went to charity. I plan on making this an annual event to uplift struggling communities.

When is the big night, the crowning of Miss Commonwealth 2018?

The crowning is on Saturday, the 8th of December in Germiston. Just follow me on social media to find out more.

 

Where can we follow you to stay updated on your journey?

You can follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter:

On Facebook I am “Miss Commonwealth SouthAfrica Finalist 2018 Shanika Bongela”, My Instagram handle is “misscwsa_finalist_2018_shanika” and my Twitter handle is “@MissBongela

 

Excitement is heavy in the air for our beautiful finalist, as she prepares for the big night. All that is left now is confidence, prayers and crossed fingers. Make use of the above social media links to follow her on this beautiful journey.

 

By Tebogo J. Mphatswe

 

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