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Bevy of beauties....these beautiful young women are vying for this years' Vodafone Miss Hibiscus crown.

Its not just about getting sponsors and going on stage.

Becoming a contestant in Suvas annual Hibiscus carnival requires a lot more than just beauty and more than anyone else, the contestants vying for the Miss Hibiscus 2009 title are ready to admit this.

The contestants are glad they are able to get so much exposure before the actual event, all thanks to the Hibiscus organising committee.

They are eager to make it known that they are not in it just for themselves but for the thousands of youths out there; to bring important social issues that theyre concerned about into public discussion through their participation in one of the most popular entertainment events in Fiji.

The Hibiscus organising committee arranged an issue awareness workshop for the contestants to help them become more informed about issues such as HIV/ AIDS, youth unemployment and child rights.

The workshop will continue into this week.

The contestants were also required to do a mock presentation on a given research topic in a build-up towards actual judging during the carnival.

Twenty one year old Komal Singh, Miss Hasmat Investment, had been assigned to do research on street kids.

Before I used to pass the street kids without a care, but after doing the research, I feel they are not there because they want to but because they do not have a choice, Komal said.

She hopes a solution to this problem will be found soon.

The contestants have been doing a lot of public speaking exercises.

Kelera Tuirara, Miss FRIEND sponsored by Bank of Baroda, said she has learnt to hold herself in public and has become prepared to handle questions more confidently.

Fiji TV producer/presenter, Miss Sky Pacific, Abby Young, 24, who produced last years hibiscus highlights and live coverage finds being on the stage more different than working behind the scenes.

Nearly all the contestants have done charity or volunteer work such as helping in flood appeals, donating things to the needy, clean-up campaigns and creating awareness about issues.

One requirement was for them to learn cat-walking, which all them found to be quite an experience.

The biggest challenge for everyone has been juggling between their work/school commitments in the build-up to the festival.

Even that has proven to be a learning exercise. They all say they have learnt to manage their time well and are coping better with the demands being placed upon them.

The contestants are urging young women in Fiji to do something different, to step forward and be a part of such a contest because it will give them the confidence to reach...





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