IN March last year, Jacqueline Ingabire was crowned Miss Gender in the first ever Miss Gender pageant organised in Rwanda. The then second year student of Umutara Polytechnic University beat 14 other contestants to the title.
A year after she was crowned, the 23-year-old talked to The New Times’ Susan Babijja about her reign and career.
What inspired you to compete for the Miss Gender title?
I was inspired by the fact that it was different and it had a specific cause that I was passionate about: to promote gender equality among the youth, especially university students. I thought it was a great opportunity after I had not succeeded in running for Minister of Gender at my university.
How did your family react to your choice?
I didn’t have any problem joining the competition because my family was very supportive. Anything positive one wants to pursue, we are always there for each other.
As Miss Gender, what did you do to promote gender equality in Rwanda?
I organised debates that provided a platform for my fellow students to discuss gender equality issues. With support from our lecturers and administrators, we gave students an insight into where our country stands as far as gender is concerned.
Under the gender club, we also organised an educative concert for young girls about early and unplanned pregnancies. This concert brought together a big number of primary and secondary school students as well as students from university among others activities that basically aimed at sensitising students about gender issues.
Do you think your impact as Miss Gender has been felt by the society?
I am not sure because Miss Gender is something new in the country, and usually Rwandans take time to adopt something which is new to them.
However it has opened a new era for gender equality and possibilities for its promotion. I have also served as an example for women as far as beauty with a purpose is concerned.
A lot of Rwandans are critical of pageants. That they heavily dwell on physical appearance. What’s your take on that?
Appearance is a factor, but also intelligence, public speech, confidence, teamwork and the way one conducts herself matters a lot. All those are considered during the beauty pageant. There is more to them than just one’s appearance. Rwandans should embrace pageants because they contribute to the development of our society.
What are the major challenges you face as Miss Gender?
Since it was the first time, there were quiet a number of challenges. For example, lack of support for my projects.
It was also difficult to juggle academics and my duties as Miss Gender, but I managed to pull it off and even graduated.
What was the best part during your time as Miss Gender?
I felt great working with young girls to express their talent and also the debates I used to organise. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in what I was doing.
Are you dating?
No. I am still single.
What are you up to?
I want to reach out to different universities across the country and also to carry on sensitising Rwandans about gender equality.
What are your future plans?
In October and November this year, I am hoping that with the successful implementation of my project I can continue my charity work but also advocate for gender equality in universities.
What one failure in your life did you most learn from?
This is a complicated question and I don’t think I will be able to answer it.
Briefly tell us about your background
I am a fresh graduate from Umutara Polytechnic. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Applied Economics. I studied primary from Kigali Parents before enrolling at FAWE Girls School and completed from Lycée de Kigali (LDK).