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Miss Uganda gets dirty in major rebranding

17 September 2014, 09:18

Kampala -Miss Uganda organisers have unveiled a major rebranding of the annual beauty pageant, trading the glamour of the catwalk for an army-sponsored agricultural boot camp.

This year's crop of 20 finalists will swap perfecting their strut under stage lights for a stint at farming poultry and cattle as well as lessons in packaging farm produce, before the overall winner is crowned on October 25.

"Who would criticise Miss Uganda being on a tractor or wearing jungle boots or holding a spade?" said Kihura Nkuba of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), a Ugandan army programme aimed at boosting rural production which has partnered with the event organisers.

The competition, he asserted, was now "the most talked-about beauty contest in the world" because of the army partnership.

Brenda Nanyonjo, chief executive of Miss Uganda Ltd, said the idea was to steer more young women into agriculture, the biggest sector of the fertile but impoverished east African nation.

"If I get a young woman today with three million Uganda shillings ($1,150) and I tell them to start a business, it would be a salon or a boutique," she said at the event's launch.

"Six months down the road they would have very little stock and because there are so many boutiques and salons and nail parlours, it would close down. The young girls who think they're very glamorous don't think of agriculture," she complained.

Nkuba said he hoped the finalists would inspire the country "instead of running into a salon or knowing the best restaurant".

Organisers said the top finalists, backed up by Ugandan army sponsorship, will eventually be used market produce including potato flour, mango juice, cornflakes and honey.

"Miss Uganda could root for these products and make sure they reach areas within Uganda and outside to expand the market," said Nkuba.

Contestants said they were embracing the change.

Judith Acayo, 24, who was wearing a tiara, is the current "Miss Uganda" for the country's Northern Region, and she says she is spending all her spare time on a poultry farm with 288 birds.

"There are ladies doing agriculture but when they make their money the men take it, especially in the villages," she said

She hoped the event would be an opportunity to speak out about women's rights.

Fiona Nassaka, 24, said she was farming lettuce, peppers, passion fruit, pigs, rabbits and hens.

"Agriculture is not only for the dirty people. You look at me, am I dirty?" said Nassaka, who was wearing a long, blue velvet dress.

"I'm feeding my country. It's not only about glamour, there's something more."

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