Flavirina Naze, of Claremont, hopes to advance human rights activism for trans people if she wins the Miss Transgender SA crown.
The winner will be announced at the end of the month.
Ms Naze, 39, was born in Burundi and grew up in the small town of Ajabe, near the city of Bujumbura.
“In my heart and mind, I have always been a girl, and I grew into a woman as I grew up,” she says.
Transitioning is not what makes her a woman; trans women are women, she says.
She was invited as a trans activist to South Africa 12 years ago to attend a conference on gender identity in Cape Town.
“While I was at the conference, I got a message from the director of my organisation in Burundi that the Burundian authorities had found out what I came to do here, and he warned me that it would not be safe to return home.”
In Burundi, it is illegal to do advocacy work for LGBTQ rights so she became a refugee in South Africa and was granted asylum.
In recent years, she has affiliated herself with Sisonke, an activist organisation protecting the rights of the country’s sex workers.
“I work doing trans advocacy and education calling for the decriminalisation of sex work,” she says.
She also helped the organisation with outreach work, including taking condoms and the lube to people on the streets and encouraging them to get tested for TB and HIV.
Sisonke spokesperson, Yonela Sinqu, says the organisation is very proud of her as she is a diligent and intelligent woman who stands firm for human rights as a whole.
“Sisonke applauds initiatives such as these pageants which is a good way to advocate towards the end of inequality and stigmatisation in our communities.”
Ms Sinqu says it’s another way to educate everyone about the diversity in the LGBTQ communities.
The first Miss Transgender SA was held in Durban in 2017.
This year, because of Covid-19, all participants had to upload videos of themselves in swimwear, evening wear and a crowning gown to the organisers on YouTube. Those with the most votes will be invited to attend a questioning session with the judges in Durban on Thursday December 31, followed by the livestreamed announcement of the winner.
Ms Naze says she is honoured to be taking part in this pageant.
“All my life, I wanted to be a supermodel.
As a trans woman, you don’t get a chance to work with a modelling agency, but once I have done this pageant, I feel it will prove that I am professional.”
Visit https://misstransgendersa.jimdofree.com/events/ to vote for Ms Naze or visit the Facebook page at misstranssa/ to find out more.