Meet Uwimana, the first contestant with a disability vying for the Miss Rwanda crown | The new times

IT TOOK 12 EDITS for a young disabled woman to compete in Miss Rwanda. On Saturday, February 5, Jeannette Uwimana, a hearing-impaired candidate, made the decision against all odds and tried her luck at the auditions held in Huye district.

She is now making headlines after securing a PASS in the auditions, becoming one of nine contestants to represent the Southern Province.

Born in Busasamana in Nyanza district, the high school graduate grew up with the dream of one day competing in Miss Rwanda, a dream she realized last weekend when she was allowed to enter the beauty pageant during the hearings organized in the district of Huye.

Uwimana, 26, was born deaf but the disability did not erode her confidence as she fulfilled her dream of competing for the crown for the 2022 edition of the current edition.

“When I finished high school, I thought ‘why shouldn’t I participate and see how it goes?’ My family supported the idea and here I am,” she said.

Uwimana first showed interest in participating in the beauty pageant in the 2021 edition, but was at one point discouraged by some of her friends that her disability would make it difficult for her to pass the pageant.

“My family was ready to support me but some of my friends said it was not possible because they thought I would not communicate with the judges. For them it was impossible because the judges could not understand me “, she said.

For this reason, she called for more training on the use of sign language in different sectors to ensure effective communication with deaf people.

“Communication is always a challenge when people don’t know sign language,” she said.

During the auditions, Uwimana showed up at the audition venue accompanied by her interpreter Faina Kabayiza, who would help her interact with the judges.

Kabayiza and Uwimana have been good friends for years as the two were classmates during their days together at Groupe Scolaire HVP Gatagara Huye High School where she completed her high school education in Mathematics, Economics and Computer Science (MCE).

Their friendship would not have gone far if Uwimana had not taught Kabayiza sign language so that they could communicate easily at school.

For Uwimana, succeeding in the beauty pageant is a dream she has had since she was young.

“In primary school, I used to see young women going to participate in Miss Rwanda and I wanted to participate one day too,” she said.

“Now that I have made it, I want to share this experience with my fellow young women with disabilities and encourage them to participate in Miss Rwanda as they too have the potential to be like me,” she added.

The candidate says there is still a lot to be done to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities by putting more effort into changing the mindset in the community that disability is not a disability.

“People with disabilities can achieve so much, but it’s so discouraging for them to be left out. Some people in the community think that they are not able to acquire skills in school like others, but it is quite the opposite. This is why I want to sensitize relevant organizations to help me advocate on their behalf so that they can have access to education,” she said.

The optimism of disabled watchdogs

Uwimana has been hailed by many, especially umbrellas fighting for disability rights, for her courage and confidence to join the race for the crown of Miss Rwanda 2022 despite her disability.

Aimee Frederic Rangira, co-founder of Media for Deaf Rwanda, told The New Times that Uwimana must now be facilitated by all means to prevent her from any challenges that could cost her the crown due to her disability.

However, he said, whether they succeed or not should not depend on their handicap but on their performance like the rest of the competitors.

“They shouldn’t get the PASS because they have a disability. It shouldn’t be like that. They should work for it and I don’t think the jury should show them mercy during their deliberations just because of their disability. They should be treated like everyone else,” Rangira suggested.

A mission for the organizers

There are already calls for Uwimana to be given a paid interpreter who would help him communicate with others during the rest of the competition as part of helping him successfully participate in the competition.

Meghan Nimwiza, Director of Communications for Miss Rwanda Organization, said Uwimana was awarded the PASS on merit and assured that like the other contestants, Uwimana would be facilitated in everything she needed during the rest of her trip. at Miss Rwanda 2022.

“Miss Rwanda is an inclusive beauty pageant in all its aspects. Uwimana died not because she was disabled but because she was able to. We are ready to answer anything she needs throughout the competition, just like the other contestants. She will compete without any challenges,” said Nimwiza.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that each competitor competes in a conducive environment. So finding her an interpreter is part of a lot of things that we are going to facilitate her with,” she added.

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