Nukeri Aluta Makhanani, an 18-year-old from Hamashau, a rural village in Limpopo, is 2021's Miss Mashau.
The pageant is designed to promote awareness of, among other things, alcohol and substance abuse, encouraging young people in the Mashau community to focus on getting an education, and to reduce teenage pregnancy.
Makhanani and her younger sister were raised by their maternal grandmother after their mother died in 2005, when the siblings were just babies.
Her grandmother became their legal guardian, while Makhanani's father provided for their needs.
But when he sadly died when she was 7-years-old, taking away the little support that he could provide, it left Makhanani's grandmother as the sole breadwinner for the little family.
'My teachers pushed me'
"Throughout primary school, I wore clothes handed down to me by my relatives. In high school, my grandmother was paying for my transport money, without anyone's help. By the time I got to Grade 11, things weren't easy as my grandmother was very ill and I was the one looking after her. She was the breadwinner and the only parent I had left. In March 2020 she lost her life," Makhanani says.
Makhanani shared that after losing her grandmother life had to continue, even though a lot changed in their family set up.
She says that losing her grandmother gave her the motivation and inspiration to work harder and chase her dreams, of which one of them was to win Miss Mashau.
Things weren't the same after her father died, she says, but thanks to donations from her aunts, Makhanani was able to continue to attend school. "My teachers pushed me to study harder and lead as an example to my younger sister," she added.
This has happily paid off, as she is proud to share with us that she received her matric results this week and passed with a Bachelor Pass, with one distinction too.
Winning Miss Mashau
Winning the Miss Mashau crown and writing her matric examinations were two of this teen's most desired 2021 achievements, but she had strong competition from the exceptional group of focused young women from her village.
"Winning the Miss Mashau competition helped me gain more than self-confidence, and it has opened many opportunities for me like helping me to voice out and inspire other people who are from a disadvantaged background like mine," Makhanani says.
She hopes to be an advocate one day, sharing with us that she feels that she will be able to achieve the goals she has set for herself.
At the moment, she lives with her unemployed older brother and younger sister who is currently at school. She plans to study law, to become an advocate so that she can take care of her siblings.
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