Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism has added curvy Ugandan women to its list of tourism products to attract foreigners.

The State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, on Tuesday launched a beauty pageant dubbed ‘Miss Curvy Uganda’ to pick women to promote tourism with the finalists to be selected in June.

Mr. Kiwanda unveiled the initiative, part of the Tulambule (let’s explore) promotion, at Mestil Hotel in Kampala by waving a flag while women in sleek and tight-fitting clothing walked around the poolside taking pictures with the event organisers including  the junior minister.

“We have naturally endowed nice looking women that are amazing to look at. Why don’t we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?”  Kiwanda posed, pointing at “a sample” of beautiful women.

Tourism is Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner with the country earning $1.4 billion last year, according to government statistics.

Most tourists visit national parks for diverse wildlife species such as gorillas, birds and other animals. The source of Nile River is also a prime attraction including crater lakes and mountains.

In a bid to grow the sector’s revenues and attract more tourists, Uganda has added curvaceous women to its lists of tourism products it offers.

Ann Mungoma, the lead organiser for the beauty pageant, said she was optimistic that this will enhance the visibility and appreciation of Ugandan people.

“Miss Curvy is an event that will bring out the endowment of the real African woman. It is exceptional events that will see young ladies showcase their beautiful curves and intellect,” said Ms Mungoma. Only those aged 18 to 35 years are eligible to participate, organisers said.

For a conservative society that Uganda is, with its Ethics ministry often banning festivals and jailing artistes for “promoting sex”, the new tourism initiative has attracted mixed reactions.

While some have dismissed the latest initiative as senseless, women activists have reacted strongly creating hashtags like #WeAreNotSexObjects and accused the minister of objectifying women.

“It is not the right approach. But then when you look at social media, people post their pictures and get followers and many likes; those followers could come to Uganda to tour,” Ms Leilah Nakabira, an actress said, adding that “curvy women could post on social media and get followers. Though there should have had better things to look at.”

A woman activist from Bernic Woman said: “It is not the right approach. That is idolising women as objects.

Mr.Kiwanda said Uganda had along appreciated women with slim bodies as a hallmark of beauty and the Miss Curvy pageant offers an alternative view.

Ms.Mungoma added that the since most pageants celebrate slender and pretty faces, which are a more Western way of defining beauty, most African women are uniquely built which does not make them any less attractive.

Under the campaign, which is thin on details of how it will actually promote tourism in the country, ministry officials would be required to tell stories of the backgrounds of the Ugandan curvaceous beauties as well as the different cultures that would be displayed by the contestants.

Kiwanda has previously declared the Ugandan favourite roadside snack — a thinly-rolled chapati stuffed with fried eggs, locally known as rolex (derived from roll on eggs) — a tourist attraction that is now celebrated with an annual festival.

By Charles Wachira

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