Miss Somalia, beauty queen in the service of the climate cause

When he was growing up, Khadija Omar understood that this needed to change. “I became interested in beauty. But I have never really had a representation of people like me,” she says. “Why should I not be the representation I need for others? “.

As soon as she finished high school, she participated in beauty pageants. But her family could not afford the very high costs: thousands of dollars in registration, travel and dressing fees. When she graduated from high school, she got a part-time job at McDonalds and saved money to enter her first contest for the title of Miss Ontario. She went all the way to the final.

Omar was contacted to enter the inaugural Miss Somalia pageant at the end of last year, which she won wearing a traditional hijab scarf, the first woman to do so in the pageant.

These formative experiences shaped his worldview. She was passionate about two things: Representative beauty and helping the women and girls she left behind in the refugee camp to have a better life.

“The reason I like the climate so much is that right now because of the drought there are families trying to leave Somalia to go to refugee camps and they die on the road because ‘they can not get food or water, ‘she says. “And it is sad that as a Somali I have never been able to live in my country. I have never visited my country … I will never be able to do that if the climate problem is not solved. »


In her landmark video, Miss Somalia comments on a gripping montage of footage of climate change-related violence and disasters in Somalia. “For my campaign beauty with a purpose, I will work closely with UNHCR and Somali Youth Action to help vulnerable people by providing them with livelihoods and climate education programs, especially for women and children, ”she explains in the video. “With this approach, I believe I will be able to influence more young Somalis in understanding and practicing climate-positive activities.”

In partnership with the UN, Khadija Omar is helping to relocate vulnerable people from a flood-prone area and secure places where internally displaced persons will receive temporary shelter and relief kits. She also leverages her global platform to raise money for them.

Omar is not the first participant in the beauty pageant to comment on climate change in Africa. Georgie Badiel Liberty, model and Miss Africa 2004, originally from Burkina Faso, used her platform to tackle the problem of lack of drinking water in her West African country. As a child, the latter remembers having traveled miles to fetch drinking water for his family. Today, thanks to the Georgie Badiel Foundation, she builds and restores wells in Burkina Faso and trains local women to become engineers and well maintenance experts. To date, the foundation has provided drinking water to more than 300,000 people, restored 148 wells and built 21 wells and 1 solar-powered well.

“Without drinking water, a woman can not become independent. You can not raise a girl without clean water,” says Liberty. “Water is important. »

Omar is also creating an organization. K Amani is a brand of beauty products whose slogan is “Be your own kind of beauty”. Its ambition is to produce makeup based on sustainable ingredients for racialized women. She also established the K Amani Foundation, the philanthropic part of her future business, which focuses on the various challenges that women and girls around the world face. The foundation started by helping Somali women and girls access recyclable, climate-friendly sanitary napkins in refugee camps in collaboration with the organization Pad Mad Kenya. The partners will also make them aware of hygiene practices and climate change.

These projects are still in their early stages. The young woman is striving to find partners who are able to do the type of makeup she wants to create and to get permission from the Kenyan government and the UN to go to the refugee camps. And while she admits she does not have the business acumen usually required to get the organization going, she has the passion and a growing platform.


Celebrities and influencers involved in the issue of climate change are not always honest. In 2017, researchers published an article entitled “Celebrities and Climate Change”, which describes some of the biggest challenges that celebrity activism poses, namely their level of superficial involvement and the ability to divert attention from the real problems of destruction associated with climate change in the world.

“It can be said that celebrities have [utilisé]… Their celebrity status to draw media and cultural attention to climate change, help bring them into the realm of popular culture and use their fanbase to mobilize engagement and action via social media, ”reads the document. “But they did it through what could be called ‘spectacular’: highly visible, eye-catching and visually exuberant media appearances that have the potential to divert public attention from ‘real’ environmental issues.”

Some of the best known celebrity climate activists include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Emma Thompson and Pharrell Williams. Prince William is also on this list, despite having recently come under fire for speaking out against climate change while flying private jets around the world.

“I have just seen Prince William on television lecturing on climate change. I would like to know what is the CO2 footprint of the royal family (and their entourage) over the last fifty years?” submitted a Twitter account.

But two authors of the article, Michael K. Goodman and Julie Doyle, are optimistic about Khadija Omar’s efforts.

“One thing that’s really interesting about him is his story,” Goodman says. “She speaks like a Somali refugee who moved to Canada and then speaks on behalf of other Somalis dealing with climate change and the refugee crisis. She is able to speak from this position of authenticity. »

“She is a young woman. [racisée] who has different life experiences than other public figures or celebrities, and she uses them to raise awareness of an important issue and make connections between climate change and climate justice, and refugees and migration, Doyle says.

Omar does not yet have millions of followers. She is more of an influencer than a celebrity. But she dreams of following in the footsteps of women like Halima Aden, a Somali-American model who has more than 1.3 million Instagram followers and is known for being the first supermodel. hijabi.

For the young woman, the beauty pageant is a way to make an impact, even given the tensions between this institution, which in its history has focused mainly on the physique of the graduates, and the women who become empowered and determined and who use this platform to become involved.

“Even if someone uses this story [pour construire sa marque], it’s better than not saying anything, ”says Omar. “Beauty is something I love. It’s great that I can wear fashion, makeup and still have an impact on the world.”

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