Who Is Miss Universe South Africa? Refilwe Mthimunye Is Teaching Young Women That Their Bodies Are Their Own

I know it’s hard to choose just one woman from the 80 competing in the Miss Universe pageant, but I think I’ve found my newest girl crush — Miss Universe South Africa, Refilwe Mthimunye. As I watched her make it through the first round of competition into the Top 15, I was completely enamored not only by her poise and her intelligence, but her chosen mission of women’s health. Refilwe Mthimunye is dedicated to young women around the world, making sure that their voices are heard loud and clear.

A third-year law student in her native South Africa, Mthimunye is an ambassador for a group called ZAZI, which roughly translates in Zulu to “know yourself.” The mission of ZAZI is talking to young girls and women throughout South Africa about their inner strength and knowing and trusting in themselves. In her interview on Miss Universe, Mthimunye spoke about how nearly 10,000 women in South Africa get HIV every month, and she and ZAZI are trying to break the stigma that women have no choices in their sexual lives. Mthimunye stressed that with knowledge comes power — young women should be sexually active only when they are ready and on their terms and no one else's. She said that her mission is to “make sure women are heard and [that] no one dictates what our dreams should be.”

Um, I’m in love, aren’t you? There’s such a stigma around young women and their sexuality — teenage boys are pretty much encouraged to experiment and sleep around, and teenage girls are shunned when they want to explore their sexuality. Letting girls know that it’s okay to empower themselves to make their own sexual decisions (and not just following along with what a partner wants) is such an amazing mission, and I’m so glad that Mthimunye is dedicating herself to it.

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