Nasasi Belinda (C), a business woman, reacts with emotions as she is crowned Miss Curvy Uganda during the first edition of Miss Curvy Uganda in Kampala, Uganda, on April 26, 2019. (AFP/Sumy Sadurni)
Nasasi Belinda, a Ugandan businesswoman, has won the east African country's first-ever "Miss Curvy" beauty pageant, vowing to act as a role model for other women with "plus-size" figures.
"I am going to be an inspiration," an overjoyed Belinda said after winning the title in Kampala late Friday, beating 24 other finalists for the grand prize.
"Being plus-size is not a problem," she continued. "So be happy about yourself and make sure you don't quit. Just keep going."
The pageant was part of a government campaign to attract tourists to the east African nation.
But the campaign caused controversy in February when tourism minister Godfrey Kiwanda suggested Ugandan women's curvaceous beauty was "a product to be marketed along with what we already have as a country ranging from Nature, the language and food, to make it a tourist attraction."
Women's rights activists were outraged by the comments and called for the minister to resign.
"This is perversion. To think women can be used as sex objects in this age and time is an absurdity and we condemn it," Rita Aciro, executive director of the Uganda Women's Network, told AFP at the time.
Ugandan entrepreneur and activist Primrose Nyonyozi Murungi launched an online petition to stop the campaign, which she said was "totally unacceptable and demeaning to us".
"Women in Uganda have been attacked while on the streets. What happens now is that the government is confirming a stereotype that women are sexual objects and can be touched regardless and more so made a product of tourism," she told AFP.
Former opposition leader in parliament, Winnie Kiiza, told AFP the move came "at a time (when) women face fear and stigma in a male-dominated society".
Minister Kiwanda sought to play down the controversy on Friday.
"I also believe that there is a new wave that is going to come to Uganda, a new confidence that is going to be built among plus-size ladies," he said.