Good people, count your fingers.Five is the number of years the country has had no Miss Malawi.
That was until last Friday when Cecilia Khofi won the crown.
At last, Malawi has a beautiful face to represent her.
For half a decade, the country has had three presidents, but no beauty queen.
Not that beautiful faces were nonexistent.
There were multitudes all over the place.
Yet there had to be only one winner on Friday night.
That was Cecilia, 23. The winner of a Nissan Tiida is not a plain beauty.
She has some university-certified brains in her skull.
She is a rare mix of beauty and grey matter in the line of her memorable predecessors, including Blandina Khondowe who was one of the judges.
So are her runners-up Nthanda Manduwi, 21, and Yvonne Kamanga, 24.
The renewed Miss Malawi contest confirms that the two attributes are not oil and water.
They mix seamlessly in these beauties, whose resume embodies much more strides than what we saw on the calculated catwalk at the glamorous Miss Malawi finale.
Our daughters can look up to the beautiful graduates and get inspired that universities are not beyond the reach of girls.
In their 20s, they have zigzagged past early marriages which claim almost half of girls in the country.
That nearly one in two women marry before their 18th birthday, legal marriageable age. It is one of the catalysts of rapid population growth which Miss Malawi needs to help dial down.
Despite efforts to keep the country’s population boom in check, nearly 30 in 100 adolescent girls are going to waste due to teen pregnancies.
Such is the abyssal trap that the Miss Malawi and her deputies had to surmount.
This makes Malawi an unfriendly place for girls with stellar dreams. Promising futures keep being nipped in the bud due to poverty, indifference, peer pressure and cultural practices that negate the importance of educating girls.
Doubters of the stunning, smooth faces that we saw on the red carpet at the finale should make a trip to any village and take a look at Miss Malawi’s out-school agemates who are likely to be nursing numerous children.
Beauty is somehow skin-deep.
But the knowledge and skills girls attain when they go to university are priceless. They remain with them until they drop dead.
The conquest of beauty queens with varied degrees is no sign that the renewed Miss Malawi has no place for plain beauty.
Rather, it just shows that the contest is more demanding.
Congratulations to the top trio for their enviable feat and CVs.
Beauty and brains are not oil and water. They mix seamlessly.
The rise of brainy beauties should liberate their youthful generation from stereotypes that shackled their mothers and grandmothers to kitchen fires and bedrooms where men seemingly took pride of being jailers of innocent women.
The triumph of learned women should make bigoted men ask themselves: just how did we confine the strength of a woman in those tiny rooms for millennia?
Adolescents need role models to signpost them to a better future.
Out of every 100 girls who begin Standard One, only about three will enter secondary education. Of those three, only one will enter university.
We need to turn the tide.
A nation where 62 percent of women aged 20-25 hardly complete primary school is a fragile State–and it has no reason to scoff at beautiful girls with degrees.
Go, Cecilia. Go out and shine the light on all good things that women achieve when they are empowered–for below your tanned skin and nicely shaped skull lies some enviable brains.n