Perspectives Women

Meet Mpule Kwelagobe, Miss Universe 1999. At 34 Stronger Than ever

  • Summary / Author
    Beate Wedekind

You go to a business dinner, you work the room, you have good talks, you meet interesting people and then all of the sudden you get hooked to a voice. You turn your head and you see a beautiful woman and you know, you know that person, although you have never met her before. That happened to me at the dinner of the AGCO Summit in Berlin. The woman is Mpule Kwelagobe. She is tall, she is beautiful, she is strong.

Botswana.  I remember very well when I heard of her for the first time. It was 15 years ago.

In 1999, at the age of 19, Mpule Kwelagobe made history as the first delegate to represent Botswana at the Miss Universe pageant, and she won! She became the first black African woman to win an international pageant.

Mpule also became the first Miss Universe to collaborate with the Harvard AIDS Institute, and addressed students at Harvard University alongside then Harvard Professor Jeffrey Sachs and Dr. Richard Marlink of the Harvard AIDS Institute. Following her historic crowning as Miss Universe, Botswana post launched five (5) commemorative postage stamps of Mpule. In 2002, the Government of Botswana awarded Mpule a full scholarship to attend any university of her choice around the world. She graduated from Ivy League institution, Columbia University in the City of New York, in 2006 with a degree in International Political Economy.

Tonight she was the guest of honor, an ambassador, but she is so much more than this. She is a front runner for The New Africa. She is a very political person, because she cares for her people, for the women of Africa. She uses her fame and beauty for the role that African woman are playing for the future of the continent.

More than ten years ago, in 2003, Mpule was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, which also selected her as a Young Global Leader in 2006. She was awarded the highest honor by the Lions Club International in 2001 during Lions Day at the United Nations for her work as a member of the Leo Club (junior Lions) in Lobatse, Botswana. Mpule had previously been honored by the Lions Club UK and the Lions Club Botswana in 1997.

In 2000, Mpule was appointed as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and HIV/AIDS by the UN’s Population Fund, UNFPA. In this capacity, she has addressed members of the United States Congress, the UN Least Developed Countries conference, the UN World Youth Summit, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN General Assembly. In addition, she participated in numerous policy forums in Washington DC and lobbied European donor governments on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund.

But the most important role she ever played is that she turned her fame into an international campaign for women in Africa. She is outspoken, determined and what she says and does makes best sense.

I am happy to have met her in person and I that could listen to her strong voice, after I only knew her beauty …

Learn more about her and her message on her website. Get updates on her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter.