My Story: Narda Els


I was born hard of hearing and my hearing kept deteriorating. These days I’m almost completely dependent on a hearing aid and lip reading. I finished school at Transoranje School for the Deaf in Pretoria and have been working as a typist for 22 years in the SA National Defence Force at Wonderboom.

In 2001 my husband, who used to be involved in the Summer Deaflympics, asked me to become involved in a Miss Deaf South Africa beauty competition. Since then we’ve managed and presented this competition together. Initially it was only a beauty contest but after 2004, when Candice Morgan (a South African) won the Miss Deaf World title, we decided it was time to upgrade it to a full pageant for deaf women, irrespective of their race, age or culture.

We hope this event helps to break down stereotypes about deaf people. My own involvement is based on being immensely proud of being a deaf person and a member of the deaf community.

I’ve already learnt so much as a result of my involvement in this project – I’m growing as a person through interacting with other people and by developing my social skills. I also get satisfaction from knowing I’m making it possible for young deaf women to achieve their goals through this beauty contest.

I’ve had the privilege through Miss Deaf SA to travel overseas. The first time was in 2007 when I accompanied Terneil Oppel to Prague in the Czech Republic. I had to see to it that Terneil was well-prepared to take part in Miss Deaf World, that she met all her appointments and fulfilled her duties. I had to ensure she dressed right, ate healthily and exercised. For me the most difficult part of this trip was to cart the baggage of two people to and fro! But playing courier didn’t in the least upset me because I believed I was making a contribution to Terneil’s experience, allowing her to devote her full attention to her activities. In 2011 I accompanied Mbali Nkosi to Orlando, Florida, where we quickly befriended the organisers and other participants in the Miss Deaf World contest.

This year Miss Deaf SA will be crowned on 25 September at Carnival City Casino. It’s extremely hard work to stage this pageant! To make everything go off smoothly demands tremendous commitment and you get so little sleep. My husband and I initially organised the competition ourselves but as it grew the demands on our time became too great. We then approached friends and organisations for help so the competition could be maintained at a high standard.

I get enormous satisfaction when the pageant is a success and the contestants express thanks for the opportunities we’ve created for them. Recently at the 2013 Valhalla Arts Tributes Awards, which recognises the important role of women with disabilities in the development of communities, I received an award in the human resources division. It was for my contribution to supporting young deaf women to become self-sufficient and independent so they can look the world in the eye.

The greatest challenge I’ve encountered in my life as a deaf person is persuading people who aren’t deaf that I can do everything they can! That’s why my advice to other deaf people is to create challenges for themselves and grasp opportunities that come their way.

Don’t allow your disability to stand in your way!

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