By Ediri Ejoh
The winner of Miss Nigeria Great Britain, beauty pageant, Mary Dinah, yesterday expressed her commitment to actualizing the ‘Zero Hunger,’ United Nations Sustainable Development Goal among the girl child as her key focus.
Mary who won the Miss Nigeria Great Britain Crown for 2019, in the beauty contest held at the Angle Villa Hotel, Lekki, Lagos on August 10, 2019, told Vanguard that her focus will be on alleviating hunger and poverty by feeding poor children in Africa with school lunches with the support of her foundation ‘Food for Thought’.
Speaking in an interview with Vanguard, the beauty queen who is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of Seattle Residences and Spa and Founder of Mary Dinah Foundation, an international NGO, promised to use her new elevated status to make a positive impact on enhancing the lives of the girl child in Africa.
“I have a big responsibility to use everything I have achieved to make a big impact on society. However, I have chosen Zero Hunger as my main area of focus” She said. On her passion to drive this vision through, she said, “Whenever I eat, I think of children who are hungry and have nothing to eat. In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food is identified as a basic human need together with light, air and water. Before we discuss safety or self actualisation, we have to critically analyse the issue of hunger or else we would not be alive. For me, that is the most important cause and I am looking forward to ensuring that children and those in schools have food and not go hungry.”
Challenges to tackle
According to her, before being crowned a beauty pageant, she had identified two key areas of the nation’s economy that needs urgent attention, namely, unemployment and gender inequality.
She hinted that she has been working on finding solutions to these challenges in the past. Speaking of commitment to solving these societal problems, she said, “I started my charity five years ago with Job-Link Foundation and based on that I always analyze the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics report on unemployment when it’s released three times a year and I have often been invited to CNBC to speak on it regularly for three years now.
“The unemployment rate in Nigeria is in a dire state. We have total unemployment at about 23 percent, with youth unemployment heading towards 50 percent, and female unemployment which people barely look at is edging towards 50 percent as well. That is to say in every 10 women you meet, five are unemployed. It is a very critical situation and has to be given urgent attention.”
On gender inequality, she said, “In the northeast we have young girls being kidnapped from school as well as stopped altogether from going to schools, a position we must continue to fight against.”
“According to the British council, Nigeria has the highest rate of girls out of school in the World. I believe there are five million girls out of school, a figure much higher than anywhere else in the world. Honestly, there is something we are not doing right.”
“I strongly believe that our solution to this problem begins when we all come together as one Nigeria without tribal or religious segmentation to solve this problem nationally. Currently what we see is fragments of regions in the country that are moving forward and others that are lacking behind.”
What Nigeria should invest on
She noted that Nigeria in general and Lagos, in particular, has a huge potential for tourism. She has, therefore, pledged to support the development of the sector.
“I believe Lagos is a beautiful state and should be seen as a megacity. It has not yet gotten a global frontier like Miami, London, and Paris. I have visited those cities and thought they are nice Lagos has a beauty and uniqueness like now where else.
“Just yesterday I was at a private beach house in Ilase overlooking the ocean which looks like a slice of paradise. Lagos has untold beauty that people including ‘Lagosians’ have not had the chance to explore. I definitely would be using the platform to promote tourism and encourage other people around the world to come to Lagos and experience what we have here,” she stated.
On her background and how it helped her win the beauty pageant, Mary said, “I grew up partly in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom but had always said if I would participate in a beauty pageant it would be Miss Nigeria because this is where I was born and my parents are from here. I definitely was proud to represent my state – Lagos state. The night of the award was beautiful and magical as I was graced with friends and family and the audience cheering for me while on stage. We had various categories such as casual wear and traditional wear to showcase.
“However, I had designed my traditional outfit. My mom’s family is from Niger State and I wanted an outfit that would be a fusion between the South West and the North Central. I designed an ‘Ashoke’ outfit with a short skirt and crop top, mixed with some beads and carried a calabash which made it more colourful and the perfect fusion between Fulani and Yoruba style. I was very happy.”
She explained that her passion to support humanity dated back to her childhood but got serious expression in 2014 when she established, The Mary Dinah Foundation.
The foundation, she said has been successful in other youth benevolence programs including Job-Link which was Nigeria’s first every jobcentre and connected over 10,000 people to work.