EAST LONDON, SA – I’m Noloyiso Ngalo, also known as Unolali, which means “Villager”. I started the #Unolali brand lightly on social media and it caught people’s attention. They’d say I am too pretty, well-spoken, educated and smart to be a “village girl”. I wanted to change the stereotype that villages “can’t have” smart people. I come from a deep rural area, where we still fetch wood from the forest to make fire, water from the rivers; and there is no electricity.
In order to open up people’s minds, I had to raise awareness that I am who I am, because of where I come from. I can’t divorce my roots, because society says we are not good enough. The reason why I do the work that I do, is because I want to be the person that I needed growing up.
Noloyiso Ngalo – Growing Up #Unolali (Villager)
Apart from lacking resources, there was no information or having a point of reference for what you can be when you’re older. There were no human models, most of the community is older people who grew up in an era where dreams didn’t come true.
The norm was, got to school, get a job and get married. So starting #Unolali (Villager) brand sparked a conversation with people who are like me. There are many of us who broke out of the “norm”, but people are scared to talk about where they come from. #Unolali brought us together to be able to connect, share stories and relate with one another.
Most importantly for me, it fueled me to reach out to the young girls and boys who are the future representers of our community.
I am part of the ‘Bumb’INGOMSO Project‘ which aims to groom the #GirlChild through multiple programmes combining behavioral, biomedical and economic interventions. They have Yakha Magazine, that focus on inspiring, educating young people between ages 14 and 24. Youth get to share their stories and impact one another.
The young girls also get to go to camps where they inspired, fun activities, share challenges, motivational talks and they get groomed. I am a fashion designer by profession, founder and director of Versatile Dimplestyles. Through hard work, I taught myself how to design clothes and turned it into a business.
I formed a team with young people; models, creatives, photographers and together formed 0077 Multimedia Agency . Part of what we do is provide emotional support to the creatives within our agency.
Most young girls (and boys) are unable to share their sincere feelings with their parents; especially where we come #Unolali. So I have become a support structure for them and it goes beyond youth. There are people older than I am who get help from us.
Out of respect and confidentiality, I don’t even discuss what some of the issues they face are; because they need to feel safe with me. I want that for them.
Disclaimer, I am not a qualified psychologist or therapist but I have learned coping mechanisms from my own experiences and observations. When we got out there, we do organize professional psychologists where necessary.
The Need is Great…and we need more awareness
I don’t normally talk about the work that I do with girls, the only time that people see me with them is through fashion and modeling. But there is a lot that we do, away from the spotlight. There are still places, villages where young girls are forced into marriage.
Where I come from, it is happening till date. And there isn’t anyone to protect these 14 year olds from the vicious cycle because their parents don’t see anything wrong with it.
They still live in the past mentality. The issue is when a 14 year old girl is traded off to marriage, usually to a much older man, mostly mine workers who live in Gauteng. Not only is she introduced to sex at an early age, but this man leaves her behind and goes back to work.
Normally, the girl stays behind and naturally, meets with younger boys. Worst case scenario is this man who’s older and lives far, infects a young girl with HIV/ Aids. The next thing is, she will pass it onto the younger boys who is her age, without knowing. Because of lack of information, guidance and protection.
Miss Berlin November
It would really make a huge difference to have more awareness and education. The elders and youth of these communities need to see the possibility of a different life. That’s why I appreciate movements like #GirlChildDay. They need it.
And I cannot do it alone. I am self-funded, all of the work I do is from my own pocket. And, it’s not easy but it is possible. I also want to show my peers and community that we don’t have to wait for the government to find solutions for the problems we have.
We are the generation we’ve been waiting for, and we must bring the change, for the next generation to come. That responsibility is ours.
Miss Berlin November is more than just a beauty pageant; I am duplicating myself in villages. We don’t only select a winner based on looks; no. We are planting a seed of hope, dreaming big, information and self-confidence. It’s an on-going program that teaches the village girl child that there is more to life than being sent off to marriage. More than going to school and getting a job, they are inspired to be creatives and start businesses.
When I say I am duplicating myself, understand; where I come from there are no fashion designers, much less business owners. Much less, who are female.
I want them to have all the knowledge, self-belief and opportunities to be able to not only create the best life. But also to be the role models of their communities. Each contestant has that duty. So even if they don’t win the crown, the program teaches them life long skills. That they can now use, to groom others too. We are not in the business of dressing girls with beautiful clothes and crowns only, but causing a generational ripple effect. To change the storyline, stereotypes and future of #Unolali, the villager.