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A Touching and Painful Story: The Miss Rwanda 2014

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The Auditorium of the formerly renowned National University of Rwanda was chosen as the venue. Within those towers of wisdom, students as well as the public from the surrounding community, gathered to witness as the Southern Province representatives in Miss Rwanda 2014 were about to be selected. The Auditorium had been turned into a wonderfully decorated hall. It was a delightful experience to be there.

Cat walking, elegance, expression, and answering judges’ questions on issues dubbed ‘general knowledge’ were among the selection criterions. Contestants were students from the University itself, and other girls who felt beautiful enough to be part of the race.

Then came the Q&A part, where the beauty queen aspirants’ knowledge, public speaking skills and language literacy were to be tested. The start was painful enough and meant more than just an answer to a judge’s question. The beauty queen’s answer, associated with her level of studies, and the way she expressed herself in a foreign language of her choice made many of us cringe. She answered-I will write it as it was uttered- “Le problem que je veux legrer c’est la mere des enfants qui vont mort avant noeud, la problem que je legre c’est la problem des enfants qui a mort avant noued. » I salute her courage and confidence. It takes an unrivaled level of self-confidence to contest in such pageants, aware of your language literacy, which you know very well are limited.

The above is one of many examples of how poor are language literacy skills that were witnessed in the Miss Rwanda 2014 Auditions. If you want to see more, you ought to watch videos of The Northern, Western and Eastern versions of the Tryouts. Thanks to the Kigali Today Video Journalist who uploaded them.
One cannot find proper words to describe it. But to try, let me borrow words tweeted by a friend, He described it as ‘a touching and painful story’. As someone who has attended some of the auditions, and watched videos from those I didn’t attend, my description of what I saw is: An appalling and throbbing story which involves young confident and stunning girls.

We Don’t Know What We Want

Only insecure people laugh at poor language skills, tweeted one Archie Henry.I agree. Some laughed at the poor girls and were not interested in the story behind.

When it all started, people took it as a funny joke. As it progressed, a different story came up. One that says: Here is the result of a poorly organized (and conceived) pageantry. As another friend put it “I don’t mean it’s generally normal but it’s normal since they are running for Miss Rwanda. It’s clear; no one serious goes for it. When you are bad, you get bad people.” He adds that organizers of the contest are bad enough to attract bad contestants. We have beautiful girls going into noble initiatives like #GirlsinICT, #GirlsInSciences, et cetera. We must have beauty with brains. Beauty alone is for touristic physical attractions which don’t have to talk to attract hundreds of tourists like our Gorillas.

I recall the Minister of Sports and Culture briefing journalists on the Miss Rwanda 2014. He said that Miss Rwanda promotes the Rwandan Girl, making her an ambassador of the country’s cultural values. He added that the beauty pageant is a platform of women empowerment, building confidence and capacities in a bid to showcase their abilities using their beauty and skills for an ultimate purpose of dignifying the nation. The pageant contributes to chasing away from our girls, the fear of exploring the horizons. “This is why MINISPOC supports the pageant,” the minister said. To be honest, I was shaking my head as I replayed his annotations on my recorder. Every word of the above is just deceitful. Simply the ministry (or should I say WE) doesn’t know want it wants. Many of us are wondering if there is a concept behind this Miss Rwanda.

Let’s just take a few words from the above paragraph. Promote, ambassador of cultural values, women empowerment, building their confidence, and dignifying the nation. Does any of those associate with Miss Rwanda as from what happened in the Auditions? Are the preselected contestants really up to the task? If exposing their poor language skills is what you call ‘promoting’ Yes I agree. If you can tell us one of the cultural values promoted by this pageant before even talking about ‘ambassadors’, I will back off! Women empowerment! Really? In what are they empowered? And then you find a way to insert ‘dignity’. These girls are supposed to ‘dignify our nation’! Well, we have to rethink and rewrite the meaning of the word dignity. For sure, it has lost its meaning. What horizons will they explore with only their not-so-good Kinyarwanda anyway? I am sure you know where Kinyarwanda-speaking communities live.

Like every government-backed event, this one also has a Theme: My beauty and skills, my tools to self-reliance. I am not comfortable commenting on this theme. It says it all. I give you the floor.

The criteria for one to be selected include being a Rwanda Citizen of 18 to 24 years of age, having at least 1.7 meters of height, being upright and having good public speaking skills. I take the last. I understand we are not supposed to speak foreign languages (French and English) with the right accent. I agree though I know that our beautiful sisters contesting in Miss Rwanda don’t have an accent problem. Theirs is a language literacy issue shared by many of us. After all who cares about that? Today we are studying in French, tomorrow it’s in English, next week the Minister says French will be studied as one of the subject in the O’ level. Who knows what will happen next year? I pity those who are still in High school. Trust me you might finish your studies in Chinese. Why not? After all Chinese are flocking in to invest in our country.

My concern is: Is it because we are blind that we must have a one-eyed representative? I disagree, there are so many beautiful girls with brains out there, but whom the contest’s organizers have failed to attract. If you don’t know what you want, how do you expect others to know?

Let Those with Wings Fly

If you think that someone who will be representing Rwanda in various possible international beauty pageants doesn’t have to be fluent in foreign languages, for sure I don’t know what to tell you.

Just imagine if our beloved Minister of foreign affairs wasn’t fluent in foreign languages. With Rwanda’s image on spot, what would she do? Have someone translate whatever she wants to utter, or what? Miss Rwanda must be taken as such. If one of the girls pre-selected is to be crowned Miss Rwanda to represent the rest of our smart sisters on the international scene, many would prefer not being part of that represented people.

As I said earlier, I appreciated these girls’ courage. But that doesn’t mean they are up to the task. Everyone wants to fly, but only birds have wings. If we want to be taken seriously, we just have to know that The Miss Rwanda task is an uphill one. Let’s allow only those who have wings fly. Instead of pretending that we have only those with one or no-wings at all and that we have to do with that.

Since there have been auditions, and we cannot turn back the clock, let me suggest some ways through which we can redress the situation. I see two possibilities. One if for the organizers to focus intensively on these girls’ language literacy and public speaking skills in the boot camp (some of us would even offer to help if need be). Or else, if that is not possible, we have no other choice but stopping the contest. Whatever happens, don’t sit and watch. As the saying goes, better late than never. We’ve spent so many years without a Crowned Miss anyway.

For those who are saying that everything has a start, please stop. This is not a start. For starters, just contest at the Sector, High School, and other low levels because National Levels are not for you. Don’t play with the image of a country.

If Miss Rwanda is to adhere to international beauty criterions, let it be. Otherwise, investors’ money can do something better to help our society develop than just funding a purposeless contest.

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