In Rwanda, selecting the most beautiful woman dates back to days when Rwanda was ruled by Kings. The King was entitled to the most beautiful woman in the land. It was therefore a tradition for the community to choose the most beautiful lady for the King.
According to the Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza it was the role of every Rwandan to participate in selecting the one who deserved to be the queen.
However, the minister says that the culture can not be linked to the current beauty contests, which are aimed at crowning the most beautiful and intelligent Rwandan woman.
“Like in any other country, a beauty queen is an icon to represent that particular country,” says Habineza.
He explains that the idea of beauty contests was adopted around 1991-1992.
“Two beauty contests were held at national level, to select the national Icon or Miss Rwanda,” says Habineza.
However, Habineza notes that it took a long time for institutions of learning to adopt it. It was in 2006, that the National University of Rwanda (NUR) took the lead.
Kigali City Council took it up when Miss Kigali was crowned in 2007 which also saw many other universities take up the idea and start implementing it.
Currently, the event has been glorified and all universities look forward to having a beauty queen.
Last week, Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) turned around the whole idea of a beauty contest as we know it in Rwanda when they also had a competition for Mr. RTUC alongside the Miss. RTUC contest.
However, although the practice has been running in schools, we have not had a beauty pageant at the national level for a long time.
But all that is set to change. Last week the Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza revived the practice at the national level and Miss Rwanda competitions are set to commence in December.
In his remarks, the Minister encouraged the youth to participate in the beauty contests. He outlined the importance of such an event to society and institutions of learning.
“Take part in the beauty competitions as youths, and create opportunities for serving your society like universities in other countries,” said Habineza.
He also disclosed that the winner of the Miss Rwanda beauty contest will walk away with a car although he did not specify the type.
It is always interesting to attend the beauty contests organized by our institutions of learning.
A lot of effort is employed in making the event a success and they also attract well wishers like private companies. A lot is invested in these events, as a result.
The idea of a beauty contest goes beyond just choosing the most beautiful lady. The winner is as a result, given social responsibilities that come with holding the crown.
Miss Cynthia Akazuba says that although some people have wrong attitudes about it, it is one way through which people create more opportunities for helping others.
She explains that it is also a means through which people get exposed and learn from others.
“Some people have a belief that when a lady takes part in a beauty contest, she is just showing off her body,” says Akazuba.
She adds that the only way for such people to change their mind-set is by analyzing “our contribution towards essential projects”.
Akazuba says that since becoming Miss Kigali, she has engaged in many different programmes aimed at social progress.
“I have been advocating for children’s rights and freedom mostly through the media. Several times, I appear on Contact FM, to educated and sensitize parents on the effects and dangers of child abuse to the children,” says Akazuba.
She adds that by virtue of her position, she has often organized youths to take part in environmental conservation programs. She has also been to the Philipines as part of her environmental advocacy duties.
She reveals that she has conducted conferences with the youth to fight against HIV/ Aids. This was through emphasizing the preventive measures and creating awareness.
However, she advises the beauty queens at universities to also engage in practices that portray a positive image, so as to build a good culture for the next generation.
Paula Denise Murebwayire, Miss Kigali Institute of Health, says the idea is not only for personal benefit but it’s a sign of development and it rhymes with other developing countries.
Murebwayire insists that the beauties should not only work on holding these titles, but must also endeavor to “leave a mark during their reign”.
She says that such can be achieved by working together with school management and that this can be possible if they develop a practical plan.
Joan Ngabire the reigning beauty queen at the School of Finance and Banking notes that ever since she was crowned, she has worked with her team on various programmes that are aimed at benefiting orphans in the country.
She explains that although there are challenges at times that may hinder the programmes, at least something must be done.
To raise money to fund their activities, some beauty queens have had to be creative. Ngabire says that they have been organizing music concerts to raise some money “that helps us to make our contribution to the needy or orphans”.
She adds that the latest concert raised Rwf 468.000 that will be donated to orphans.
Miss Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Clarisse Nshuti, is sure that her pro society efforts and programmes help to avoid the idea of beauty contests being viewed negatively in the community.
“I believe that its really good and encouraging work that we are doing. Among other things, we have emphasized the teaching of Rwandan culture to our fellow young people”.
She says that they emphasize the benefits of upholding culture and how Rwandans should up-hold a strong cultural background.
Just a week in office Margaret Uwera of Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) plans to work with colleagues in using professional skills gained at university to enable her programmes run smoothly.
“It’s just a week in office but what I promise is organizing my colleagues to utilize our skills in searching for funds to facilitate our programmes,” Uwera says.
She adds that this can be through providing services to hotels and payments transferred to run any programme that is embarked on.
There are at times problems of planners having wonderful plans on paper, but the plans never getting implemented. However, if managers of our beauty contests do not also end up in the same category, a lot can be achieved from the idea of beauty contests that has now gained a foothold in Rwanda.