7 February 2013

Rwanda: Have Beauty Pageants With a Purpose ? Ruth Mukasahaha

With the growing number of beauty pageants in Rwanda, especially in institutions of higher learning, one wonders why we need a Miss Gender University selected from the various universities in Rwanda.

Women Today talked to Ruth Mukasahaha, Managing Director of Ikaze Arts Agency Limited, the main organisers of Miss Gender University, to find out the criteria followed when selecting the participants of this beauty pageant and the reason why the competition was born.

"At Ikaze Agency, we have several initiatives but our core value is to promote the Rwandan culture and that is why we organise such events. We discovered that although there are several activities on International Women's day, the youth are not usually catered for. The contest, which will be held on March 9, 2013 aims at involving the youth so that they too feel part of the Women's Day celebrations," Mukasahaha explains.

"We believe that the youth enjoy beauty pageants and with over seventeen Universities on-board, the possibility of several youth participating in the women's month is really high. The contest's theme is Fighting Against Drug Abuse, something we feel should be seriously addressed and spearheaded by the youth given its dangers. Drug abuse is seen as a key factor that has led to gender based violence in recent times." she says.

The soft spoken Mukasahaha said the Miss Gender University will be held annually with the grand prize of Rwf5 million.

"The contest is not just about parading beautiful girls; it focuses mainly on beauty with a purpose. The winner will promote gender in universities and the society at large. The contestants will have a one week training programme to increase their ability to promote gender equality," Mukasahaha added.

Mukasahaha also said that before the actual day of selecting the winner at Petit Stadium Remera, the public will vote online for their favourite contestant. Five contestants with the highest votes will compete for the top spot.

"We wish to have a popular Miss Gender University whom the youth will feel comfortable talking to or listening to when we carry out different programmes at the universities. In other words, she will be a gender ambassador in schools," said Mukasahaha.

The 60-year- old Mukasahaha was born in Muhanga District. The mother of three is a nurse working with Project San Francisco, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Health at the National University of Rwanda.

When asked how she is able to juggle work, school and parenting, she said, "I'm lucky my children are grown up now. the youngest is 25. I try to plan my work schedule and also have time for my family."

"My advice to fellow women and girls is that they should know that everything is possible - they can take on any initiative and will succeed if they want to. We are lucky that our government and policy makers highly advocate for women empowerment and gender equality. I always advise my daughters to aim higher in whatever they do," Mukasahaha says.

She concluded by saying that she spends her leisure time sleeping since she is pretty busy most of the time.

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