Today, February 22, is a big day for a certain group of smart, beautiful young girls in Rwanda. The luckiest and most deserving of this group of 19 girls will be crowned Miss Rwanda 2020!
This calendar year is a year of transition. It’s the year our country is closing a major chapter in its development journey (Vision 2020) and embarking on another exciting and ambitious road to Vision 2050.
Unlike during the previous phase of development which was launched in 2000 when most, if not all, of the girls who are competing for the ultimate crown this year were yet to be born, we can all be sure that they will be among the implementers of Vision 2050 – and active implementers at that.
I have closely followed this year’s contest and particularly the projects of the contestants and I can attest that this year has proved yet again that Miss Rwanda continues to grow from strength to strength. Each of the girls has a relevant and timely idea she wants to implement – for the benefit of their fellow youths and compatriots, and the country at large.
Like our country, Miss Rwanda beauty pageant has come of age.
The 19 girls who will be tussling out in front of family, friends, officials and well-wishers at Intare Arena in Rusororo are all winners. Making it to the grand finale is an achievement for each of the young girls and a demonstration that, regardless of whether you take the crown or not, you have all it takes to impact on the lives of many of your compatriots and to actively participate in the development of your country.
Now, whether you win it or not, be proud of yourself, believe in yourself and go on to espouse the values and harness the skills acquired from the competition. Most importantly, do not abandon your idea (project), pursue it and ensure that it comes to life. Good luck…and well done!
I am lucky to be part of the Miss Rwanda legacy and can attest that this platform is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young girls to achieve their purpose. It empowers young girls with the ability to discover their strength, acquire self-confidence, and have clarity of personal, professional and philanthropic goals, and prepare for the future.
Several studies have shown that Rwanda is one of the best places to be born a girl. Women empowerment is a reality in this beautiful country I proudly call home. But this is not how it has always been. And, of course, you cannot just wave a magic wand and things just happen. Rather it’s the result of a deliberate choice and political will. It’s been a journey spearheaded by champions. President Paul Kagame has been the ultimate champion in this effort. Under his leadership women and men have become equals. Young girls now represent Rwanda in different domains and that means a lot to them. I am proud to be part of a generation that has grown up under his leadership that increasingly allows girls to feel valued and occupy their space in society.
It’s exactly because of his leadership that initiatives like Miss Rwanda have grown and thrived. President Kagame values and supports innovation and everything that offers Rwandans – especially the youth – an opportunity to discover and leverage their potential. Indeed, Miss Rwanda is just one of several such initiatives. Like Miss Geek, which inspires young girls to take up a career in science and technology.
At the boot camp, Miss Rwanda finalists do not only learn catwalking, sitting postures and values befitting of a dignified Rwandan. They are also taught how to be responsible early on and to serve above self, they visit and learn about the history of their country and how they can best contribute to toward consolidating liberation achievements. They are also taught how to cope with pressure and the limelight that come with the Miss Rwanda crown or even being a finalist. They are taught how to be role models to their peers and how to make their communities and country proud.
Speaking from experience, Miss Rwanda beauty pageant offers a complete package to girls: values, confidence, life-skills, a sense of responsibility, how to break boundaries, exposure, privileged access and an opportunity to serve and inspire others. Oh, and to represent your country with grace!
In 2016, I had the opportunity to share the story of our country’s rebirth from the tragedy of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and how we became leaders in areas like technology, women empowerment and environment to fellow contestants at the Miss World competition. We were 119 of us, each representing a country. It was a humbling and proud moment for me. It always will be the case for any Rwandan girl. I felt like I was a small Ambassador of my country on a mission to let the world know who we are as a people and how we want to engage with the rest of the world.
As a society, let’s support our girls in achieving their purpose and dreams. Yes, they’ve the substance, they are passionate, they are determined and fearless, but without the support of their people – the communities they come from and the country – they are limited in many ways. But, with our collective support they will go places.
The grand finale of the 9th edition of Miss Rwanda contest will be witnessed by many people, including five reigning beauty queens from neighbouring countries and international stars like our very own Sherry Silver, among others.
The grand finale is the ultimate meeting point of beauty, culture and brains.
I can’t wait!
The writer was Miss Rwanda 2016.