Saturday night I attended a Ghanaian beauty pageant with some friends. The first thing I learned is that events here never start on time. The pageant was scheduled to start at 8; we got there at 9, and we waited an hour and a half before it got started.
The pageant was put on by the local technology school's marketing department; the contestants were students in the department.
The pageant provided an interesting overview of local performance groups, as there were filler acts in between the pageant events. The pageant itself comprised a group dance, a talent portion, and a question and answer section. The talents were mostly dancing, except one contestant who acted out a dialog. Based on the quality of the various filler acts, dancing seems to be the highlight of the local performance arts. My favorite was the contestant who donned a fedora and did a Michael Jackson dance; another contestant performed a traditional dance that was quite good.
The question and answer portion was the most interesting. The questions would have fried the brains and nerves of any U.S. pageant contestant. Here were a few of them:
1. What do you think about female genital mutilation?
2. If your 10-year-old sister were raped by your uncle, what would you do?
3. Imagine that the day before your wedding, your fiancé finds out he is HIV positive. What would you do?
4. Do you think Ghana's domestic violence law is effective?
The contestants gave short but well-reasoned answers, and did not seem at all phased by them, while I and the other ex-pats were stunned at their intensity. I think this underscores how sheltered our lives are in the U.S.; these issues are realities for many young women in Ghana.
In the end, the winner was contestant number 6. Apparently the judges' taste differed from mine, because I had not been especially impressed with her talent or answer. I was sad that the MJ girl did not place. However, my friend's host brother was delighted, because he had been smitten with her from the beginning of the pageant; the choice appeared to be popular with the crowd as well. All of the women were beautiful, talented and well-spoken, and should be proud of their academic achievement at the markas well.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.