When Ruth Mueni, a 27-year old woman from Kenya, teamed up with the National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE) to give motivational speeches to young girls, she had no idea that it would help put her on the path to winning a national beauty pageant and international photography contest.
However, she has now been crowned “Miss Confidence Kenya” and the photograph of Ruth posing in her sash and tiara is nominated for the 24th Annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.
Ruth heard about the beauty pageant through her work with NOPE, and she competed against hundreds of other women to win Miss Confidence Kenya, a title earned by individuals who have overcome challenges in life.
Ruth is three feet tall.
Nonetheless, she refuses to let her physical challenge prevent her from pursuing and achieving her goals. A graduate of the University of Nairobi, Ruth works as a clerical officer in the Kenyan Ministry of Youth and Sports. She won a silver medal for Kenya in a regional table tennis tournament in Egypt. She is part of a local dance team. And, she is a dedicated role model to young girls who are struggling with low self-confidence. The message she shares with them is also the message she lives by: Accept yourself as you are and always keep a positive attitude.
The beauty pageant was organized by NOPE with support from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU∙CCP) Tupange program to identify local role models to work with youth who are confronting challenges in love, relationships, self-confidence and family planning, and to motivate these youth to take control of their lives and relationships by embracing the concept of planning.
Tupange (or “Let’s Plan”), the local name for the Kenya Urban Reproductive Health Project, is a five-year, five-city project funded by the Gates Foundation. Tupange strives to increase the contraception prevalence rate among the urban poor in Kenya.