The Miss Earth South Africa has always advocated for the development of young women in South Africa as Environmental Ambassadors. With an unprecedented two years behind us, we face more environmental challenges today than we ever have. And the issue of the climate emergency needs to be tackled head on. Who better to champion this cause, than our very own ambassadors; rooted in their communities and inspired by an organisation that has been established and entrenched in science, community, education, and empowerment.

A perfectly inspired Spring announcement was hosted at the Southern Sun Rosebank in Johannesburg where the ten Miss Earth South Africa finalists from across South Africa gathered for a morning sharing their journey, engaging and an opportunity for the organisation to unpack some of the exciting programmes, projects and campaigns that have made up the year 2022.  

 Celebrating almost two decades of Environmental Advocacy, Community Service and another generation of Green Leaders which form part of the strong fold of young women; 22-year-old Ziphozethu Sithebe from Centurion was crowned Miss Earth South Africa 2022. With an avid passion for aviation and the green innovation within this space, she has been hard at work over the past few months with her greening projects and campaigns. Sithebe is joined by her runner up: Nthabiseng Kgasi, a marketer and home girl from Protea Glen, this former Miss Soweto, is 27-years-old and is no stranger to the media space. Included in the line-up of announcements made, two ambassadors were announced to complete the Top 4. Knysna beauty, Angelique Fourie is a BA Corporate Comms graduate and is passionate about sustainability and community development and is joined in the top four, by KwaZulu Natal’s Melissa Lederle from Pietermaritzburg and is currently completing her PhD on Climate Change, Refugees and 21st Century Scenarios. Sithebe will represent South Africa later this year in the Philippines for the 2022 Miss Earth and we have no doubt she will fly the flag high.

In 2019 Prof Thuli Madonsela, stated in a video message, the quote below, and today her words remain engraved and powerful to each new cohort of young women who apply to be part of this programme; “It is all our responsibility to understand a small inaction can have grave consequences for the country, continent and the world.” She went on to say that; “These young women of the Miss Earth programme have the greatest commitment to create change.”

In early September 2022 a panel of judges spent the day with the young women who unpacked their community projects and work. Judges included the CEO of the Green Development Foundation: Rebecca Ngaka; Director of the Europa Art group, Melina Lambrakis; world renowned designer and the man behind the world-famous Madiba Shirt, Sonwabile Ndamase and broadcasting giant Leanne Manas, a face and personality that is no stranger to South Africans.

Off the back of a period in time that sent the world into a spin, we now return to a sense of ‘normality’ but we have stepped back into a world where the impact of climate change continues to pain and wreak havoc in communities, cities and countries throughout the world. Closer to home the devastating floods earlier this year devastated KwaZulu Natal and issues around water shortages and even the electricity crisis can all be linked and tied back to the fact that we have not addressed a changing climate and addressed the challenges that science has told us about for decades.

With a passionate commitment and mission to change the perception and understanding of climate change, the impact of environmental degradation and the crucial waste, water and food security paradigm, the Miss Earth South Africa organisation is firmly committed to ensuring that through campaigns such as the #WasteStopsWithME they are able to be on the ground, in cities and communities across the country; from  Johannesburg to Tshwane, KwaZulu Natal and Cape Town, Eldorado and Soweto, Alexandria to Gugulethu, to name but a few. Communities were engaged, clean-ups were hosted and communities gathered, to understand and engage the topic at a local level.

Through these programmes, the primary objective is always to create awareness and more importantly to educate on the issue of waste management and the catastrophic affects of a lack of waste-consciousness for our country and the globe – with a core focus on taking the issue of waste to the individual and connecting ordinary South Africans to their own waste generation and footprint. In other programmes food security, Ocean Protection, eWaste, Conservation and illegal wildlife trade, are but a few of the focus areas that are tackled each year.

Ella Bella Leite, Director of the programme said; “Finalists demonstrate clear leadership qualities, creative thinking, strength of the mind and character, most importantly a passion for making a sustainable difference in their communities. Each year it is immensely rewarding to see the growth and influence of the Miss Earth South Africa programme, over a period of more than sixteen years we can confidentially say that we have empowered, educated and encouraged young women from around South Africa to become Environmental Ambassadors.”

The Miss Earth programme is proud to work with partners such as Southern Sun, The Europa Art Group, Interwaste, GebCo, Green Development Foundation, Servest, Skin Renewal, Eco-Monkey Recycling, Newsclip Media Monitoring, Samsonite, Sava Vinyls and the Department of Environmental Affairs.

In congratulating the Miss Earth South Africa 2022 winners, Candy Tothill, Southern Sun’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs and Head of Marketing & Brands said, “Southern Sun is consciously committed to integrating best environmental practices into our core business strategy, and we try to ensure that our conduct meets the needs of the present, while minimising the cost to future generations. It has been a pleasure to host this year’s announcement at Southern Sun Rosebank and we extend our warmest congratulations to the winners. We wish them every success in the months ahead, as they work to promote environmental consciousness and improve conditions in their communities.”

The ladies have been spoilt with gifts from Lanza, Clarins South Africa, Panier De Sens, The Laser Beautique, L’abeille Natural Alchemy, David Green Eyewear and the winner will be supported by Europa Art, Samsonite, JJ Schoeman and Vukani Fashion as she prepares for the international event.

Finally, Executive Director of Miss Earth South Africa, Catherine Constantinides, also an international climate activist and human rights defender said; “Heroes don’t live in story books they live amongst us and we as the Miss Earth Leadership Programme have to ensure we empower and inspire these young women to be active citizens and be those heroes we need in society to allow us to change the problems we face on a social, community level and linking that to the environmental impact we are faced with as a society. We are faced with a climate emergency and we have no time to lose; it is our belief that these young women will take the #GreeningMinds into every sphere of their communities and platforms of influence as they set the agenda and shift behaviour, mindsets and the future we strive for. Their time is now!”

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