The pageant was a huge success - 2 trucks of additional chairs had to be brought in, live TV broadcast covered the entire program....from it's 9ish start until its 1:30 end. The entire place was packed until the very end. The dancers were great, the video of the girls and Elizabeth was very well done, the MCs rocked (thank you Dr. Mitch!) and the contestants were all beautiful representatives of Rwanda. My fellow judges: Chief Judge Manzi, Sonia, Kije & Christine were great. The judging was challenging to say the least: after a great evening, healthy competition, and tough scoring...Grace Bahati (or Bahati Grace as it's said in Rwanda) is Miss Rwanda 2009! She is elegant, poised, charming, intelligent and absolutely stunning. Her runners up: Carine and Winnie were also very deserving! The people of Rwanda were so engaged; they created such a strong energy at the event, and it seems the country is still buzzing from the evening. As I understand it, this is one of the largest single events ever done here; the attendees were energized, outspoken, wildly fun and expressive (not typical of Rwandan "public" culture). Several Rwandans (or Rwandanese or MunoRwanda - all are correct) have commented that this is not only a turning point for Rwanda's Women, but overall for its culture - the timing was right, and the people were ready for a celebration of this magnitude.
As for the American touch, Elizabeth Dewberry, Honorary Miss Rwanda, was fantastic -both on the screen and on stage; she will meet with Miss Rwanda tomorrow, and so begins the mentoring relationship. People were also thrilled at Hooters' contribution of a $10,000 scholarship, and I was proud to see that presented at such an important event. Personally, I am very proud to see someone like Grace get that scholarship; she is at the top of her class, and it will go far in helping her further her education; she will set a positive example for the country's youth to stay in school and pursue higher education.
I don't believe I can accurately describe how powerful the evening was and will continue to be, but I hope you enjoy this video montage from the actual pageant events. http://www.youtube.com/MissRwanda2009
Thank you Elizabeth, for a fantastic week, thank you Hooters for your support and commitment to Rwanda's initiative to elevate and educate women, and thank you Joe, Manzi, Hope, Rwandatel, and all in Rwanda who made this great; it has been an honor, and I look forward to coming back next year!