Despite a delay in her travel due to unforeseen constraints, Joannah Keza Bagwire, Rwanda’s representative at the annual Miss Heritage Global and Miss Heritage Rwanda 2015, came in 2nd place in Africa and 4th worldwide in the competition held in South Africa. Bagwire had to bank on her experience in the Miss Rwanda 2015 pageant in order to represent Rwanda well.
The 19-year-old’s poise, charisma and beauty fascinated the judges. She also had an interesting experience in South Africa that included interacting with different cultures, she said.
“There are different cultures around the world and the first thing I experienced was how diverse but also, how close certain cultures are. From all the 45 representatives, I learnt something. For example, from the Ugandan representative, I learnt that in some cultures in Uganda, ladies kneel when greeting elders,” the beauty queen said.
Bagwire said that interacting with them brought a whole new perspective on culture. “You get to learn about people, about the world, about life. You just don’t always learn what you expect to learn. You get a bigger picture on life and also see the differences that are within your own culture. Also, you get to appreciate other cultures.”
When leaving the country, Bagwire felt a lot of pressure but her manager, Miss Rwanda Project Manager, Dieudonne Ishimwe, was of tremendous help in boosting her confidence.
“Be yourself and be confident because after this, you will never be the same again. You’ll have responsibilities but again, it will build your passion about culture and make you more mature and knowledgeable,” he told her.
With the experience gained, she’s willing to teach young people about culture and encourages young girls to be active in beauty pageants because there’s a lot to learn from them.
“When you interact with other cultures, you get to learn that it’s not about being different, but rather, being close to another person, respecting and understanding another person’s culture,” Bagwire said.
She also encourages young girls to embrace the Miss Heritage beauty pageant. “It’s an experience that will benefit you socially, culturally, psychologically and even financially. There’s nothing to lose because you can learn how to walk in heels, you can find a talent within you, and you can practice public speaking skills. Basically, all it takes is courage and confidence.”
Bagwire added that it’s important to learn your strengths and weaknesses. She says that it’s key to identify the weaknesses so that when you are asked about them, you have the will to say “I know; I’m working on it”.
Before her departure, Bagwire noted that cultural values, especially among the youth, are not observed. She realised that efforts to instill culture in the youth today are low, which is why her next project will be to start cultural projects in secondary schools.
“As soon as I get sponsorship and resources, I want to start cultural competitions where schools can compete in traditional dances, prepare staple food, display cultural artifacts and create traditional poems (Imyivugo),” Bagwire said.
Right now her ability to confidently stand and represent the country will go a long way in inspiring other young girls in participating in beauty pageants and also encourage them to maintain and foster their culture.