Mildred Ehiguese was crowned winner of the 41st edition of the Miss Nigeria beauty pageant. She believes in going green.
To this effect, she started the “Green Girl Project,” aimed at helping the environment. Daily Sun spoke with her recently, in Lagos
How important is pageantry to you?
It is very important to me because it is a life-long dream that came true for me. I have always wanted to take part in a beauty pageant so when I saw the opportunity, I jumped at it. I also knew the platform would help me to achieve some of my personal goals.
What are these personal goals?
I have always wished to help women in the society and also assist children suffering from mental health issues in Nigeria and also to help the environ- ment. I want to be an example to young women.
Talking about the environment, what do you think about the mounds of filth that dot many parts of Lagos?
I would like to encourage people to do more recycling because most of these waste products are recyclable. I want to use the medium of the Green Girl Project to realise this.
What about government intervention?
Since the society does not know much about the dangers inherent in improper waste disposal and the health implications, I would implore the government to embark on awareness campaigns.
They should also provide recycling bins so that people would know that these bins are meant for different waste products and dispose them accordingly. It is important that they know how to take the materials and then recycle them, thereby creating more resources and revenue as well as employment for the teeming youth in the country.
Do you really think that providing recycle bins is enough to tackle filth in La- gos?
It is the first step. It cannot be enough because not a lot of people understand the principles of recycling. So, it should be the first step and when they begin to see that it is actually going to help our environment, they would be more open- minded and begin to do that and also learn to teach people how to create less waste, in the sense that, when companies are producing, they would use more healthy materials for the environment instead of using gaseous materials that are injurious to people and the environment.
We need the government to be more responsive because Lagos is a populous city and the rate at which waste is churned out is alarming and poses health hazards.
They need to also employ more agencies to manage waste in Lagos so that people would not resort to dumping garbage in canals and drains.
How relevant is beauty pageantry in our society?
I don’t know about other beauty pageantries but the Miss Nigeria beauty pageant is relevant to the society because it teaches women how to be independent. It teaches them to rely on other means of survival other than their beauty and empowers them. This beauty pageant is focused more on helping women to discover their purpose in life.
It provides an opportunity for the person to have access to better opportunities, what ordinarily she would not have had, as well as providing an opportunity to also impact on society. It is not just about having a beautiful face to show up on magazine covers, but engaging in something that would be of benefit to society.
There is a notion that promiscuity and beauty pageants are interwoven. How do you distance yourself from such negative impressions?
I think the first thing one should know about pageantry is that it starts with you. You need to know the reason you are going into it. If your aim is to be promiscuous when you win, then that is what you are going to do. It starts with your inner virtue.
For me, the way you carry yourself and how you behave towards people is what would distinguish you from the pack.
One of the conditions of the Miss Nigeria pageant is that (it doesn’t) even have a bikini contest. That is what we represent, because at the end of the day it is not about a fine face. In that regard, the pageant has been able to set a tone for modesty. But as far as promiscuity goes, it is about an individual’s values. It is not necessarily what the pageant would do for you. It also comes back to the value that you as an individual uphold. I have my values. Whether I am a queen or not, promiscuity is not one of them. I live by my own values and virtues and not by what people think or say.
If you could be good at one thing, what would that be?
I would like to sing. It is actually my talent and passion. However, sometimes, there is so much focus on the pageantry and we forget the personality behind it. Inner beauty is more valuable than outer beauty because outer beauty would fade away and inner beauty is what makes you who you are.
Inner beauty is what sets you apart from every other person. If you concentrate on your outer beauty, when you no longer have it, what do you have to offer?
What has changed since you became a beauty queen?
Not a lot of things have changed because most of the things that come with Miss Nigeria are the things that I am already passionate about. It only exposed me to more opportunities and has given me a better platform to achieve my dreams.
What do you not like about being a beauty queen?
I do not like the stereotype that comes with it, sometimes. Just like we mentioned ear- lier, the promiscuity, the fact that they think that most beauty queens are beauty without brains.
If you have a one-on-one with President Buhari. What would you discuss with him?
I would discuss the security issue in the IDP camps. The security level should be increased and government should give them more protection. The is- sue of Fulani herdsmen bothers me too. The number of people, especially children, losing their lives due to this menace is becoming unbearable.
It saddens me to know that more women are being widowed on a daily basis.
Nobody wants that. Nobody wants a state where blood flows continuously in the streets. We want a safer state, better educa- tion and employment We need better hospital services because victims of these crises don’t have access to good medical services. A lot can be done for the people in protecting the women and the children be- cause they are our future.
Could you give us an in- sight into your project?
I am still working on the registration of my organisation. And it is basically about children suffering from mental health and sickle cell disease. I am passionate about it because I studied psychology and, while studying, we visited some medical facilities for people suffering from mental health challenges. Sadly, some children were abandoned because they were either born with mental illnesses or suffered mental illnesses. And it was not the child’s fault; but then people don’t know these things, and that is why I want to focus on child mental health.
Another part that I want to focus on is incest because it is a wildfire that is going on now in Nigeria and not a lot of people seem to take any action about it, or families that have victims believe that if they come out the whole world would see them as inferior, especially the women, so they prefer to die in silence.
I want them to know that they can actually come out and get help and still have their pri- vacy. They don’t have to die in silence or go into depression.
As Miss Nigeria, the project is in three phases. First of all, our corporate responsibility “the Green Girl,” the corporate project that drives sustainable environment and getting more women involved in sustainable environmental practice.
The second level, the queen is also a National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) ambassador. We are working with NAPTIP to end rape, human trafficking, abuses. Last year, it was in the news a lot, people being trafficked. As an organisation, Miss Nigeria lends its voice against those practices. That is why the queen is an ambassador, working closely with NAPTIP, to ensure that we speak and take action against all of these.