The Jakarta Post
Recently crowned Miss India-Indonesia 2015 Grace Walia has a lot of plans ' not only for her career, but also to help improve the plight of women.
For a start, the 17-year-old says that she will represent Indonesia, the nation where she has lived for her whole life, at the Miss India-Worldwide pageant in August.
'I will represent Indonesia as the country it is ' by telling people about the beauty of Indonesia and educating people about the country,' Grace said. 'With this kind of competition, I get the chance to help bring the two countries closer.'
Grace, who recently graduated from the Gandhi Memorial International School in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, said that sharing her experience as a girl of Punjabi descent in Indonesia would be one of the main points of her presentation in the upcoming pageant.
'Indonesia is a very accepting country with a community that is incredibly friendly, so I think living as an Indian in Indonesia is something that is very incredible,' she said. 'Not only do I get to have the cultures of two countries. but I also get to be a part of the community as an Indonesian.'
As the only girl of three siblings, Grace said that her work has received the full support of her family. 'They are very, very supportive. They are the reason for me joining this competition. They are the reason why I am Miss India-Indonesia today.'
'They have supported me throughout my life in whatever that I choose,' Grace said. 'They are incredibly proud of me and they believe I still have a lot of potential.'
'Life, in general, has not been very different after winning the Miss India-Indonesia pageant. However, I have more friends now and all of them support me for competing in the worldwide pageant,' she said, adding that the victory was a big boost to her confidence.
Grace said that she joined the pageant to raise bigger issues ' such as making the world safer for women. 'In 2013, the Miss India-Indonesia pageant raised the issue of violence against women. It was also one of the main reasons why I decided to participate.'
'Violence against women issue is a major problem in both India and Indonesia,' Grace said. 'I am a firm believer that women need justice and when they cannot get equal treatment, then it will not be good for the world as a whole.'
Grace says that her drive to ensure women are treated fairly and respectfully stems from her own experience.
'My safety is not very assured when I walk down the streets,' she says. 'There is always the possibility of men or boys just approaching me, kind of making me uncomfortable,' she said. 'I think when women feel comfortable enough to go outside of their houses that will make the country a better community.'
Grace said early education about gender equality was key to ensuring a better future for women and the world.
'I think that parents should be able to educate their children ' not only to educate men to behave and to respect women, but also to educate their daughters to respect themselves and be cautious and always go in the right direction,' she said.
The opportunity to address social issues, such as women's rights, through pageants can offset critics who say the
events objectify women, according to Grace.
'I think that even though there are groups of people that disagree with the way a pageant works or what a pageant represents, I think a pageant gives a lot of opportunities for women,' Grace said. 'There are a lot of women that need and want this opportunity. Instead of looking at the negatives aspects of a pageant, we should look at the positive aspects of it too.'
For the future, Grace said she would love to take on new challenges to further develop herself as a person and to support her cause.
'I would love to get an opportunity to go abroad and maybe live in a new environment,' she says. 'I maybe will take acting or modeling, because that is what I am passionate about as a career. But when it comes to a proper subject, I think I would like to take psychology or law.'
'If I take law, it is going be a path that allows me to do something about the safety of women and I think that will give me the opportunities to represent them in a case and hopefully get them their justice.'