Twenty-five-year-old Vanessa Nansamba is the 2019/2020 Miss Uganda North America beauty queen. Nansamba is so much more than a pretty face in high heels with a crown and a sash. She has a BA in Biological Sciences and a Masters in Biomedical Sciences and has key interest in mental health.
Using the Miss Uganda North America (UNA) platform, Nansamba wants to promote mental health awareness to as many communities in Uganda as she can reach.
“I have carried out mental health research among minorities and taught at a college and I am looking forward to seeing that mental health issues are addressed in Ugandan communities," she says.
Her work with the Behavioural Health Initiative at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine has helped her get closer to achieving this dream.
Nansamba is only one of the many UNA beauty queens who have something tangible and most importantly, beneficial to show for their involvement in the pageant.
In 2016 Irene Nakitende was crowned Uganda’s top rising Woman at the prestigious Miss Uganda.
The-23-year-old went on to work with UNA. She is currently a curator and a peer educator.
As a peer educator, Nakitende has achieved much.
“I held a multimillion fundraiser in Miami – USA dubbed “buy a brick” a project that helped raise money for a first ever fistula hospital in Soroti District,” she says.
She says that the pageant has been a platform for her to advocate for communities back home and that because of this exposure and connections created, she was able to publish a book titled, “The Haunted” which addresses how different societies treat women and the challenges they face.
Nakitende says she raised about Shs8 million in book sales which was used to organise a project called Gulu Love activity and working hand in hand with love Uganda foundation, donated scholastic materials and also used part of the money take a speech impaired orphan girl Miracle Busingye to Ntinda School for the deaf.
Shalom Aburu started a community initiative in Uganda following her reign as Miss UNA 2018.
“The reason I participated in the pageant was to use that platform to advocate for education of youth in Uganda,” she says.
Aburu now works as an international coordinator and one of the directors of Morkiswa Community Skilling Organisation in Tororo District.
“We have a vocational institute where we equip the youth with skills such as, plumbing, carpentry, electrical engineering, hairdressing, agriculture, among others,” she reveals. Aburu says the organisation has had partners such as the German embassy and the Bill Gates Foundation.
“I have been able to connect with many more partners to help our organisation” she adds.
In a similar manner, Ms Yvonne Kushemererwa winner of the pageant for the year 2017/2018 has been able to contribute to society by donating wheelchairs to Kyaninga Child Development Centre in support of children with mental health disabilities.
Julius Kabugu, one of the pageant founders says that the Miss Uganda North America Leadership Programme was launched in January 2017 as one of the Uganda North American Association’s efforts to engage and unite young people in North America that have ties to Uganda.
Mr Kabugu says the purpose is to create opportunities for young women in the Diaspora to connect with Ugandan communities globally to discover ways to collaborate on business, women’s issues, education, charity and other initiatives.
Ms Tibba Murungi Kabugu, the pageant co-founder, says it has continuous programmes and benefits from which winners contribute to Ugandan communities positively.
She notes that after the crowning night the winners are subjected to mandatory programmes called Miss Uganda North America Cares Tour of Uganda and the Ladies First Summit which are both annual.
Ms Tibba says that the cares tour is an annual Culture, Charity and Tourism tour of Uganda by the reigning Miss Uganda North America which seeks to deliver what the queen and the Pageant lobbies for the Ugandan communities .
“The queen visits a selected region of Uganda to learn and share about that region’s culture, join some local charities and learn about their activities and the people that they serve, and learn and share about that region’s major tourist attractions”
She adds that the programmes that have been highly impactful and sold Uganda abroad looks to promote tourism, charity with the rest of the world while giving back to local communities and exposing young women to global issues affecting women and girls.
First ladies Summit
Tibba Murungi Kabugu the pageant co-founder says that the Ladies First Summit is meant to create space for women to have constructive dialogue on important issues cutting across various areas, including Business, Employment, Wealth Management, Family and Relationships.
“Women need to unleash their dreams and that is why we hold a summit is to help women in Uganda to achieve their dreams and beyond by creating a support system and new opportunities,” she adds.