How Miss South Africa took freedom in her hands

 
 
 

During apartheid, most activists took a stand against injustice on the streets. Amy Kleinhans-Curd did it on the stage of a beauty pageant. As the newly-crowned Miss South Africa, she was expected to participate in Miss World 1992 carrying her country’s flag. She refused, as the old flag symbolised division, oppression and hate. Her choice instead? A plain white one for peace. It was a bold move at the time, resulting in an onslaught of hate messages and calls directed toward her. But the act, though unconventional, sent a clear message: freedom belongs to all of us.

“My act of resistance caught the attention of my hero, Nelson Mandela,” Kleinhans-Curd says. “Together we were united through our struggle for a better South Africa.” The first woman of colour to be titled Miss South Africa, she became an icon for millions around the country. But even before that, Kleinhans-Curd was on a path to inspire and help others. She studied African Political History and graduated with a degree in Education. When she took the crown, her teaching efforts were initially put on hold, until she realised she could continue shaping minds beyond the classroom. “I made a commitment to myself and my country to make a better life for young people in South Africa,” Kleinhans-Curd says. In 2000, she started Dial-A-Teacher, a means for children to get in touch with professional teachers with just a phone call. Thousands of learners without sufficient access to resources and qualified educators are benefiting.

The businesswoman’s reign started with a pageant, but almost two decades later, she still continues to lead and inspire. From the moment she made a statement for our country and took freedom in her hands, Kleinhans-Curd has been showing South Africans what we are capable of. “Educating a nation is the best way forward to true freedom,” she says. We have the power to reject the status quo and contribute to our own and others’ futures.