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“I am not doing pageants for fame or money:” Yassin Faal opens up to What’s On-Gambia
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“I am not doing pageants for fame or money:” Yassin Faal opens up to What’s On-Gambia

In August 2014, Yassin Faal will be in Maryland, U.S.A to represent The Gambia at the Miss Africa U.S.A Beauty Pageant Finals. The 20-year-old is hoping to win the crown.

Read below our exclusive interview with the beautiful Yassin.

What’s On-Gambia: For those who don't know you, can you present yourself?

Yassin: My name is Yassin Faal, and I’m 20 years old. A former student of West African International School (WAIS), a feminist, a child right advocate for over a decade and a change maker.

My journey towards changing lives of children started since I was a kid. I used to present the Kids Corner on GRTS with Fatou Sanneh Ceesay. I have been a member of Voice of the Young, the organization that groomed me up and offered me the opportunity to represent The Gambia in both local and international forums - examples are the 54th Session on the Commission and Status of Women and The Africa Technical Preparatory Meeting for the World Congress in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

I am the co-founder and co-host of Change Makers TV show: a show which talks about issues hindering the development of young people and gives ideas on dealing with those setbacks. This show still runs on GRTS by young people.

Yassin Faal

What were you doing a year ago?

A year ago I was busy with advocacy work as well as settling down in the United States.

When and why did you move to the U.S.A?

I moved to the U.S in 2011 to pursue my educational goals.

How long have you been in pageants?

I have been in pageants since in The Gambia, but just for few years. Basically, around 2009-2010 I was a first runner up Miss Kanifing Municipality. I also participated in Face of The Gambia in 2009, if I can recall.

There are many stereotypes and criticisms people have of beauty pageants. What do you have to say to Gambians that think it's “unGambian"?

Well, my response is that everyone has a right to their own beliefs and it's a free world to believe in what you believe.

Pageants are ways to empower young girls, and not all pageants are there to expose the sexuality of females. It is to "empower" them, built their confidence and give them a voice to create change in a bigger platform. Miss Africa USA is full of ladies with Master’s, Bachelor’s in different disciplines and these are well groomed ladies like myself that value the African culture as well as our respective religions.

How were you selected to represent Gambia in Miss Africa USA?

It was my own initiative: I auditioned and I was chosen and I paid for my ticket to Maryland to represent The Gambia. It was a tough competition but with my hard-work I was selected as the final 15 out of 32 African countries to represent The Gambia as: Miss Gambia USA for the Finals. Knowing how much impact this pageant can bring to my country and its people, I decided to do it for the love of The Gambia and children with autism.

If I win this pageant, projects will be sponsored for The Gambia and this will go a long way in improving sectors like mental health.

Yassin Faal

As you get ready for the pageant finals what are you most nervous about?

Firstly, it's going to be a tough competition of intellectuals (Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holders) of different disciplines which of course makes me nervous, but I believe in my power to create change and my years of experience. Support from Gambians in Maryland is another thing that makes me nervous, all these countries had their supporters in the semi-finals, unfortunately for The Gambia no supporters were there. I pull it together with my public speaking skills; I was able to pull the crowd in my favor.

I hope Gambians in Maryland can come out in their numbers and support their own in the finals.

So how are you preparing yourself?

I am focused in the gym working out, practicing my platform and making sure it's mastered. I am working on my talent and I am going to be speaking in Gambian events in Seattle to further develop my public speaking skills and confidence.

In the pageantry scene in The Gambia who is your best and why?

There are not much beauty pageants in The Gambia, but I will say I look up to Fanta Ceesay (model).  I know she is not high on the spot light yet but trust me; she is the next Naomi Campbell. Her personality, smartness and etiquettes will take her a long way.

You intend to use your crown to raise awareness on autism. Tell us more about this project?

Firstly, autism is a mental condition that affects the child's social and communication skills. It’s a phenomenon that should be discovered in the first three (3) years of a child's live for early intervention of speech therapy to prevent these children from becoming non-verbal. Awareness raising is my first step: I intend to use social media e.g. Facebook, Instagram etc. which are already in place, I intend to use my organization to do a door-door awareness raising, I intend to use the media: lobby for air time on GRTS with change makers to specifically focus on autism and early intervention.

I intend to organize autism month where I shall gather experts in the field, a lot of young people, parents and teachers to talk about autism and to find ways and means of dealing with these kids that have special needs and integrating these children back to society. Most children with autism face stigma and discrimination due to their mental condition in The Gambia. They face harsh words like toye bii, retard etc. People believe children with autism have parents who are evil, so parents often keep these children in their homes. It's sad that these children don't live a normal life.

Let's talk about love, are you currently dating?

(Smiles) That's personal as the Wollof will sayneng bayii nonu.

Ok bahna. Who are your favorite Gambian artists and why?

I like Jaliba Kuyateh, Singhateh, T-Smallz, Gee, E-Nyassi because I see them as ambassadors that can take Gambian music to the next level, with a level of consciousness and consistency.

With reference to a sex-tape that recently got leaked in The Gambia, how do you think young girls can be protected from sex predators? What is your honest take on the issue?

My advice and candid opinion is that: men shouldn't use the weakness of these young girls to their advantage and these young girls should make their bodies a temple. They should be aware of the damages technology can do to their lives and know who their partner is. Some men think, it's a sound thing to expose girls, unfortunately they are exposing themselves too becausekarma will surely come for them; it can affect their career especially in the US if they want to run for political office and their sisters or future kids.

What are your hobbies and interest?

I read a lot of novels and watch a lot of movies, I love to cook on my spare time, playing with kids and empowering them with life skills, making friends, working out at the gym to stay healthy, I play soccer if I have the opportunity etc.

Do you agree that Gambian girls like having too much make up?

It is their choice but I would say yes, my sisters need to embrace their natural beauty or sometimes wear light make up at some point. Nothing beats being natural and embracing your flaws. Do not let your make up define you as an African woman.

Do you think your pageantry experience will have an effect on your future?

Oh yes! It has already availed me a bigger platform to talk about issues of concern like autism and this could change lives and perspectives forever.

It will get me more connections, exposure and develop my public speaking as well as boast my confidence. I shall use these in my future career because I am a work in progress of becoming a degree holder in International Relations.

Anything you would like to share?

I just want to say this; I am not doing pageants for fame or money, I am doing it to have a bigger voice in changing perspectives and lives. I have done a lot for The Gambia that some people don't even know of. I believe in positive development. I hope all Gambians will support my course of improving mental health specifically focusing on autism.

I thank Allah! My mum, Voice of the Young, CFCO, GRTS they are the pillars I was built upon. I thank you What's On Gambia for the opportunity!


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