Performance contracts (Imihigo) were introduced last year as part of the Miss Rwanda beauty pageant. The aim was to ensure that Miss Rwanda beauty contest goes beyond being merely a beauty pageant, but also a platform to transform communities.
As a result finalists sign performance contracts and get to implement projects aimed at boosting the social and economic welfare of Rwandans. Society Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa looks at some of the finalists who set out to use the beauty contest as a platform to make a difference in society.
Since she was crowned Miss Rwanda 2016, Mutesi has embarked on various initiatives aimed at improving people’s lives. Her focus on sensitising the youth about the dangers of drug abuse, visiting children’s homes and hospitals has proved that indeed she depicts beauty with a purpose. Various government institutions and Society for Family Health (SFH) have supported her ventures to transform lives.
Mutesi paid community health insurance for 1000 vulnerable people in the Western province and offered free milk for children under Peace and Hope Initiative in Kinyinya, Gasabo District.
She also partnered with Rotaract Club, and built kitchen gardens for vulnerable families in Kinyinya to fight malnutrition amongst children.
Her inter-generation dialogue project was also initiated last year while she was still the reigning beauty queen. The dialogue, under the theme “What can the Rwandan youth do to accelerate the liberation pace” aims at empowering the youth.
This initiative, she says, was inspired by the tremendous achievements Rwanda has registered since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Seeing all this motivated me to urge my fellow youth to play their role towards the country’s development, like our parents did,” she says.
The first runner up and Miss Photogenic in Miss Rwanda 2016, Kwizera believes that the world is a better place with good education and young people with a vision.
She has undertaken several projects to see that the young generation is empowered and inspired, through her career guidance and mentorship programmes.
Under her project, 45 schools have received mentorship from different professionals including lawyers, teachers, and women in aviation, among many others.
She also published and sold 500 copies of her ‘Oh Rwandan Child-’ a children’s book to inspire children. The book, she says, has had remarkable impact as many young people have come out to write more books.
Currently a student at the African Leadership University, Kwizera says that her plans for the future are to stick to boosting literacy, and hopes to sell more of her books so that she can raise funds for her projects.
Like Kwizera, Eduige Isimbi’s project focuses on promoting the reading and writing culture amongst the youth in Rwanda. It is a project that impressed judges during last year’s Miss Rwanda competition. The concept, she says, was inspired by the fact that lack of reading materials, mostly in rural areas is still a challenge and a stumbling block in promoting literacy among the youth.
Working with Isaro Foundation and leaders of Muhanga District, she donated 400 books to Muhanga youth centre library. Thanks to her initiative, the youth in Muhanga can now get access to a wide range ofvolumes like science books, history literature and novels.
“I hit two birds with one stone. The initiative has attracted the youth there to visit the library, and in some of these books, they get information on their sexual reproductive health. The impact can be proved by the increase in HIV tests carried out at the youth centre,”21-year-old Isimbi says.
Her dream is to continue fighting illiteracy among the youth in rural areas, but speaks of how convincing partners to collaborate with her has been her biggest challenge.
“Some people do not understand why I would go for a project that does not yield profit, yet profit is not my main goal here, my sole purpose is to help the illiterate. The journey has not been an easy one as I require money to purchase these books,” she says.
The 21-year-old secured fourth place as well as Miss Popularity in the Miss Rwanda 2016 beauty pageant.
Having realised that one of the biggest problems young girls have to deal with is teenage pregnancy, Umuhoza set out to face the challenge at all costs.
Her foundation mostly equips teen mothers with vocational training to get skills in handicraft making, weaving, tailoring and sewing, among others. Her association, Icyerekezo, My value my vision empowers girls about their value and their ability to take charge of their destiny.
Aside from the skills, the girls also find solace from their interactions at the association and with this, they get to understand that what they are going through isn’t the end of the world, and that there is still hope for the future.
She started off with helping girls in Musanze, her hometown, but also plans on expanding to other parts of the country.However, financial constraints still hold her back, as she is funding the entire project solely with her monthly salary.
Her first cohort that comprised of 80 members has already graduated 30 of them, and now stands at 50 members.
She hopes that in future, the foundation will have outlets not only in Rwanda, but other countries.
Doreen Karake Umuhoza
Umuhoza’s belief that disability is not inability has driven her into advocacy for people living with disabilities (PWDs), encouraging them to create their own jobs, especially those with hearing impairments.
She began in her home area of Muhanga in the Southern Province. Working with the District Mayor as well as other mentors she advocated for the rights of PWDs to get equal access to jobs.
“I tried to prove to them that they can do everything according to their skills, their knowledge and different talents that they possess. My idea was to help them create their own jobs instead of searching for employment as we know it is hard for people living with disabilities to find work,” she says.
Her biggest challenge, however, has been the inability to communicate with people with hearing impairments, and the lack of financial support to expand her project to other parts of the country.
Mpogazi is not a girl who gives up easily. She showed this perseverance after she auditioned for the pageant for the third time last year. After finally making it as second runner up in the contest, Mpogazi’s dreams were to boost the use of ICT in schools, and among the youth in general, and to promote autodidacticism and research among the youth.
A year and a half since she initiated the project, the 21-year-old has worked with the then Ministry of Youth and ICT, and Africa Smart Investment Distribution (ASID), a company that specializes in providing consumer centric IT solutions that are innovative, authentic and continentally scalable.
The programme has since benefited about 200 schools and ICT clubs were set up to enable students learn various things that are helpful in and out of class such as coding, website development, among many others.
She reveals that her biggest challenge has been lack of financial resources and some schools do not have enough equipment to ease her project.
“My plan is to expand the project to more schools and probably take the competition to a national level. I am also planning on finding means to fund ICT centres in schools through different partners,” she says.
Big dreams, bigger challenges
Despite the Miss Rwanda pageant being a platform to implement the beauty queens’ dream projects, not much has been yielded from some of the finalists as expected.
Former Miss Rwanda, Jolly Mutesi, says that even if different projects come with different challenges, the most common and biggest one is lack of enough funds for the girls to implement their projects.
“There is still much support needed because we don’t have a certain budget other than using our platforms,” she says.
She urges organisations to open doors for ambitious girls and support their activities.