The 2012 edition of the Miss ECOWAS beauty pageant recently held in Port Harcourt. Supported by the Rotimi Amaechi-led Rivers State Government, the pageant is aimed at promoting peace and brotherly love among the ECOWAS countries. Miss Zirra Banu from Nigeria emerged the winner and Miss ECOWAS Peace Ambassador 2012 in an event filled with pomp and pageantry.
Delegates at the Peace Pageant have decried the fragile peace and insecurity in the West African sub-region. The beauty queens spoke during a peace forum presentation at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt as part of their competitive activity in this year's contest.
The 27 contestants based their arguments on the theme of this year's ECOWAS peace pageant "the role of Women in Peace building."
They called for gender equality, education of the girl child, women empowerment and integration of women in policy making and governance.
Nigeria's representative Zirra Banu who is also the reigning Miss ECOWAS Nigeria came tops at the event winning her the honour of presenting the peace talk at the major and final event.
Second position was claimed by Miss ECOWAS Liberia while the Ghanaian representative came 3rd.
At the star-studded grand finale, which featured international and continental artistes, Nigeria's Zirra Banu clinched the title and was crowned Miss ECOWAS Peace Ambassador 2012.
Evaluating the performance of the contestants, Rivers State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Nathaniel Imegwu said the Amaechi administration "is proud of what it has achieved in uniting West Africa through hosting of the peace pageant over time."
He said: "In the past couple of years that we have had to do the business of Miss ECOWAS peace pageant, we've seen value, treasure, a foundation of strength in unity, tourism and enterprise in the pageant. And all the time we've had the opportunity of hosting, this administration has given it the best, believing in the innate values so embedded and inherent in the programme.
"What we consider as basic setbacks that the female gender generally and across board especially within our clime has suffered over time, what I've seen these young ladies address in this forum speak volumes of transcendence, accomplishment and a determination of a gender to succeed."
Also speaking, ex beauty queen turned politician and member of the 53rd national legislature of Liberia, Hon. Mona Pelham spoke of peace and the need for African women no matter how young to rise up to the challenge of governance and nation building.
"Peace is everybody's business. Today Liberia enjoys peace because of the efforts of people that thought it important to seek peace in a war ravaged country and today my country is benefiting from that effort. So coming to Port Harcourt to celebrate the essence of peace with young women being a part and recognizing that they can be a part of peace building in Africa, I thought it wise as an ex beauty queen to come and support these young women understanding their role in society," Pelham said.