You are here

Phiona Bizzu, Miss Uganda 2012/13

My work  empowering girls stems from my personal experiences.  I have a cousin who got pregnant when she was 13; she dropped out of school and disappeared for a while because of the shame and rebuke from home. Later when I became Miss Uganda and got involved in community work I would encounter young mothers living in the slums. These incidents touched me and I decided something had to be done. I took advantage of my platform as a beauty queen to let people know about this plight and get them to pitch in as much as they can. 

It is great that UNFPA listened. I interact with young people in schools as part of our work together under the Live your Dream Campaign. 

When I talk to the girls at first they are shy and reserved but when I share my life story with them they realize I am not all glamourous and this makes them open up and share their stories with me.  have found stories of hope and encouragement. You find the young girls in most remote areas trying to balance family and books, trying to fight the social norms against them, girls who are at risk of child marriage but are still working hard in school. 

One of my most inspirational moments was speaking to a girl in Amuru who is a teenage mother. She said her brother wanted her to drop out of school after Senior Four. I encouraged her to work hard and show him that she wants to continue with her studies. She later opened up to me and said that I encouraged her and now she is ready to continue with her studies because my story gave her hope. In Moyo, one girl who was experiencing violence at home told me “nobody comes to talk to us the way you people do. It is good to know that there is someone to listen to us”. These stories encourage me to keep pushing and advocating for girls’ rights. 

We need to do a lot more to ensure that girls can be protected from teenage pregnancy and to ensure girls stay in school. The one message that I would want the young people (especially girls) out there to hear from me is: If you are not happy about where you are change it. Use what you have to change the situation. Where you are does not determine where your future is meant to be. If your family is not ready to support you use people around you let your grievances be known so you can be helped. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve a lot.