Michelle Ashimwe, a 22-year-old former women's basketball player is gearing up to make her mark on the global stage as she prepares to represent Rwanda at the 11th edition of the prestigious Miss Heritage Global 2023 pageant, which will be hosted in Thohoyandou, Limpopo province in South Africa. The three-week long annual event, which is slated to take place on September 23, has attracted 49 contestants from across the world. It is an international beauty pageant that seeks to promote peace, environment, tourism, and above all world heritage from a global perspective. Ashimwe follows Joannah Keza Bagwire, Rwanda’s representative in 2015, who scooped second place in Africa and fourth worldwide, and Jane Mutoni in 2017, who emerged as first runner-up. She is a former basketball player who participated in women's national teams U16, U18, and the University of Rwanda (UR) team. She is currently a coach for boys U20. In an inclusive interview, she shared her journey to the competition, from the heavy selection process to the excitement and dedication that have fueled her dreams. Excerpts: How does it feel being chosen to represent the country in the Miss Heritage Global 2023 competition? Over 400 girls from Rwanda submitted their entries including photos and videos. After a thorough evaluation and elimination process, I was fortunate to be among the selected contestants . I am so excited to represent my country, a feeling I had as a basketball player, where we represented together as a team. Now, embarking on this solo experience, the sense of pride and gratitude is big. I cherish this opportunity and can never take it for granted. What aspect of Rwanda’s heritage are you most excited to showcase? I am thrilled to showcase the evolution of outfit styles and expressing our unique identity. I am eager to explore the beauty of traditional attire like ‘Inshabure’ and ‘Imikenyero’ while infusing too much creativity in both old and modern clothing. On the culinary side, I am determined to prepare traditional dishes with confidence. I believe that by embracing our culinary roots and showcasing our dishes, I can exhibit both skill and pride. Additionally, I am excited to highlight traditional crafts and embody our heritage. Although it is so hard to find an experienced person who is able to do it in this modern era, I am training very hard so that I can display the rich artistic legacy of my country. ALSO READ: Bagwire shines at Miss Heritage Global What are your personal goals for this experience and how do you envision contributing to the country’s representation in the competition? I am driven by the desire to push my boundaries and achieve great miles. With unwavering determination, I am committed to investing all my efforts into the pursuit. The distance I aim to cover is not just for my personal gain, but also for the betterment of my country as a whole. I understand my success has the potential to positively impact not only my own life but also contribute to the growth and prosperity of my country. Inspired by the big achievements of those who came before me, I will endeavour to uphold the legacy. What message or impact do you hope to convey through your participation? My goal is to empower ladies with the belief that they possess immense capabilities. I am dedicated to dismantling the constraints of outdated cultural norms that held us back. It is high time that we break free from these limitations and stride towards a brighter future. Let us seize the opportunity that lies before us, challenging the status quo and illuminating the path for others.