Before 2007, Cynthia Akazuba was just an ordinary teenager. Like any 18 year old, her concentration was on the ordinary; attending school, making friends and living a simple life.
When Akazuba was crowned Miss Kigali in 2007, lots changed in her life. No matter how young she was, she had to face reality that she was in the lime light.
Suddenly she was the public’s business! Her dress code, where she went, what she did was an issue to everyone! Her life was left between public criticism and appreciation.
On the contrary, if Akazuba had stayed out of the lime light, apart from her family, no one would ever know or care what she did. Her behavior or decisions would be private.
When beauty pageants were first introduced in Rwanda, they stood serious criticism basing on culture. Beauty queen aspirants were taken for daft rebel kids who preferred exposing their booty to school.
“I personally warned my grand daughters never to join any beauty pageant no matter what. I considered it only for the spoilt girls,” says Elisha Rwarema, 68.
Amidst criticism, beauty pageants have proven to be a significant way in shaping the morals and values of the Rwandan girl. Sports and Culture Minister Joseph Habineza is right to say that Rwanda only imports positive and useful cultures.
With beauty pageants, it was never a mistake importing them. Speak of gender equality, the traditional behavior of a Rwandan girl, knowing girls’ worth and roles in the society, beauty pageants have and can win it all.
“Being known as Miss something comes with a price,” says Jean Pierre Higiro.Being the Initiator of Miss Campus in Rwanda, Higiro has a tale about how appreciating the Rwandan girls’ beauty helps girls discover their value and self esteem.
Not only public eyes stop beauty queens from misbehaving, their conscience refutes anything that can affect their image. Like roses accept dwelling among thorns to protect their beauty, Rwandan beauty queens have also stood out to protect their crown.
“Beauty is a platform to improve individually. You can’t change the society before changing yourself,” says Joan Ingabire, Miss SFB (School of Finance and Banking).
And like Dr. Higiro says, beauty queens pay the price when they practice cultural, social and educational tasks.
Akazuba is a voice for people with disabilities. Sharon Akanyana, during her reign as Miss NUR (National University of Rwanda) is remembered for advocating for girls education.
Apart from the advocacy part, beauty pageants bring home the cultural meaning of the Rwandan girl; Brilliant, hard working, cooperative and admirable.