Caroline Ruijten represents Zambia in the Miss Africa-Netherlands. Join her on her journey as she puts the mother land on the map.
AQUILASPEAKS: Give us a brief background about yourself
CAROLINE: I was born in Roosendaal, Netherlands. I was only 6 months when we moved to Guinea Bissau. I learnt French in Cameroon and moved to Zambia at the age of 14. My mother is Zambian, my father is Dutch. My tribe is in North-Western, we are Luvale from Zambezi. My mother explained that our tribe originally came from Cameroon, to Congo, to Zambia. I lived in Lusaka and I went to the American International School. My mother is into politics and would like to implement changes in her village. I have been there a few times and that was also what inspired me, you know seeing the people’s lives.
AQUILASPEAKS: How would you describe yourself?
CAROLINE: I am a social, easy going, respectful, energetic and spontaneous person. I have never been someone to follow the crowd, do what other people do. I have always been very independent, head strong and if I wanted to do something, I would do it regardless of what people think. The only thing is I am a harsh critic of myself, so you know… If I mess up, people would be like it’s okay, but I’m like, no it isn’t. This is something I need to work on.
AQUILASPEAKS: What made you go for this?
CAROLINE: Well, basically this is a pageant that I joined because, I.., even though what I described myself, I used to be a tomboy and at the age of 14-15, when I moved to Zambia, is when I started becoming more feminine and appreciating being a woman, a strong woman that is. This is not a real path. This was something I wanted to do on the side to teach myself to be more graceful, to be more disciplined and also learn to work with other people and to get connected because I am doing event management, connections and networking are important. If I am to continue in my career, it is important to know people.
Also, the reason I did this pageant is it’s about women empowerment. The organisers, you know their story behind it is very incredible. They wanted to fight HIV/AIDS as well by educating people in rural areas.
AQUILASPEAKS: What are some of the challenges you are facing in the pageant?
CAROLINE: Pageant so far, I haven’t really had any obstacles. The hardest is probably staying focused because I have other priorities like school and work and you know you have to be really dedicated to it. There are people that do this for fun or just want to be recognized and I really wanna do this to, you know, as I said, to grow and be a better person. And the other obstacle that I posted on Facebook is that because of my skin tone. For some reason, some people don’t think I’m African enough to judge or to say what should be changed or what should be done in Africa. And that’s a pity, but that just makes me more determined to prove them wrong and show them that it doesn’t matter what skin tone you are. As long as you have your heart and soul into it, you will be fine.
AQUILASPEAKS: What are your words to young Zambian girls who want to take a similar road?
CAROLINE: I want these girls to know that even though you may not be the most beautiful or have the most beautiful body, a pageant is not necessarily about looks. Looks help, but is also about intelligence. We had a work shop about public speaking and we all had to present our objectives. It is not about what you look like, it’s about what’s inside. And also if you believe you can do something and put your mind to it, you can. I want these girls to know that everything you do in life, affects you. And if you get out of your comfort zone and you wanna do things you have never done to make yourself a better person or to learn stuff, then by all means please go and do it. Put yourself out there.
AQUILASPEAKS: What are your final words?
CAROLINE: My final words are, I know women don’t go appreciated as much as they should, in Africa. And you know, there are a lot of issues, you know we can name all of them, child marriage, dropping out of school, a lot. But those types of things will cause a woman to be submissive and to listen to a man because she will be like well, I don’t really have anything to show for it. And the image, as it is, is this is a man’s world and so the women are not capable to do what a man can do. So I would like the girls to know that whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve and it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.
AQUILASPEAKS: Well, I really appreciate your time.
CAROLINE: No, I really appreciate that you would do this for me.