News

Beauty Queens speak out on teenage pregnancy at UNFPA's Live Your Dream Moment

26 March 2019
Miss Uganda 2018/2019 Quiin Abenakyo (centre), Miss Uganda 2016/17 Leah Kagasa (left) and Miss Uganda 2012/13 Phiona Bizzu with UNFPA staff. Jonathan Amwesiga/UNFPA

 

“Be yourself. Be the best version of yourself you can be. Work hard and use the opportunities that are availed to you,” said Miss Uganda 2018/2019 Quiin Abenakyo, while speaking to young people during UNFPA’s Live Your Dream Moment held in Kampala recently.  Abenakyo, who also holds the title of Miss World Africa, was flanked by Miss Uganda 2016/17 Leah Kagasa and Miss Uganda 2012/13 Phiona Bizzu at the third edition of the Live Your Dream moment, held at Hotel Africana.

  The Live Your Dream Moment, is one feature of UNFPA’s flagship Live Your Dream campaign.  It is a two-hour event during which artistes, entrepreneurs, innovators, and other outstanding personalities tell their stories to young people as a way to encourage and inspire them. The event also features discussions around issues of Gender Based Violence, HIV/AIDS, child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

 

Resplendent in their crowns, the Miss Uganda title holders held their audience of about 400 young people captive as they spoke about personal experiences, in a session hosted by journalist Raymond Mujuni.

Abenakyo, Bizzu and Kagasa spoke about their backgrounds; highlighting that none of them was born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon in the mouth’ and emphasised to young people in attendance that they have had to work hard for everything they have. For Bizzu, for instance, it started with overcoming the challenges of growing up as an orphan and later dealing with backlash from people who felt she did not deserve the title of Miss Uganda.  “The best way to deal with negativity is to not try and compare yourself to anybody. We all have strengths; you have to find what works for you,” she says of dealing with detractors.


Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo speaks during
the event 

Abenakyo spoke about how she had to overcome self-doubt to participate in the Miss Uganda pageant. Winning the Miss Uganda title meant that she qualified to represent Uganda at the Miss world Pageant. But this also meant even more fear and self-doubt; having to deal with moments where she did not believe she was good enough to go far in the completion. It was the unwavering support of her parents and friends and the way the Ugandan public rallied around her that gave her the courage to keep going, Abenakyo told the audience.

 The beauty queens also had advice for young people on how to deal with social pressure especially in an age of social media where public figures are always under scrutiny and are expected to keep up appearances.  For Kagasa it is about remaining grounded and having a belief system and holding on to that.   “Do not turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve the pressure, have a reliable support system, in family friends,” she said.

 

Rallying against teenage pregnancy

One of the common threads of discussion during the moment was the issue of teenage pregnancy. For Abenakyo, it  started during her participation in the Miss World pageant, where  she spoke passionately  about the issue of  teenage pregnancy as part of her “Beauty with a Purpose” project.   She highlighted the fact that teenage pregnancy deters girls from reaching their full potential.

 By virtue of their Miss Uganda titles, Abenakyo, Kagasa and Bizzu are now all working to support girls to stay in school and avoid teenage pregnancy through the Miss Uganda Foundation, where they conduct outreaches to schools under a project called Keep a Girl Child in School.

Brenda Nanyonjo the Chief Executive officer of the Miss Uganda Foundation expressed her gratitude to UNFPA for choosing to work with the Miss Uganda Foundation. “We do a lot of work reaching young people but we are so glad to have a partner like UNFPA to help us reach even more young people.”

UNFPA Representative Alain Sibenaler commended the three queens for sharing their personal stories, and personal values and beliefs. Mr. Sibenaler also appreciated the Miss Uganda Foundation for choosing to work with UNFPA, noting that in so doing the Foundation had found a home in UNFPA.  “Our role is to make sure that young people stay who they are; that they do not become pregnant if they do now t want to; that they are not subject to violence or exploitation. That is UNFPA; that is who we are, so thank you for partnering with us,” he said.

 

by Martha Songa