How a beauty contest is #changingthenarrative

How a beauty contest is #changingthenarrative

Under the Get Up Speak Out programme the Y+ Beauty Pageant in Uganda developed towards the huge national anti-stigma campaign it is now. The contest is not about looks, it’s about empowerment of young people living with HIV to speak out and become role models for so many others. Aidsfonds’ Leon Essink is involved in this exiting project. We asked him how the Y+ Beauty Pageant manages to change the narrative.

How does the Y+ Beauty Pageant impact the lives of young people living with HIV?

Leon: “The campaign has an enormously empowering effect on so many young people living with HIV. Not only on those who participate but also those who watch from the sideline or see it in the news and on social media. Young people living with HIV face a lot of HIV stigma but the Y+ Beauty Pageant is changing this narrative; just by showing how young people living with HIV are as normal as anyone else”.

What do you see as key success of the campaign?

“This is a perfect example of what youth community leadership can bring. The Y+ Beauty Pageant was founded and developed by the Ugandan Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA). They themselves have created and developed this activity towards the huge national campaign it is now. In Uganda young people living with HIV are now so much more visible and invited in decision making spaces to speak out on behalf of their peers.”

What has been Aidsfonds' role in the Beauty Pageant?

“Aidsfonds is always keen to support new innovative approaches that tackle HIV stigma and discrimination. As involved funder Aidsfonds did not only fund the Y+ Beauty Pageant from the start in 2014 but also proudly supported UNYPA to develop a business case. This helps UNYPA to further develop their Y+ Beauty Pageant campaign and to reach out to other potential funders and sponsors.”

Mr and Miss Y+ 2017 Mr and Miss Y+ 2017

What would you like to see for the Beauty Pageant in future?

“UNYPA envisions a regional Africa Y+ Beauty Pageant bringing together young people from different African countries. Therefore, first other national Y+ Beauty Pageants have to be set up. It is an amazing event which not only means so much for many young people but also generates a lot of media attention and publicity. My wish is to see corporate companies, who wish to get publicity as well as to have social impact, step up and fund future Y+ beauty pageant campaigns. The show must go on!"

Y+ Beauty Pageant 2020

171 contestants in regional auditions

18 finalists and 6 top winners, among them Mr and Miss Y+

80 people engaged in the community dialogues

467 people engaged in the community service events

2626 male and 724 female condoms distributed

2,000,000 progressively engaged in the social media campaign

Infographic number of contestants Infographic number of contestants

About the Y+ Beauty Pageant

The Y+ Beauty Pageant aims to reduce stigma young people with HIV are facing on daily basis. The Uganda Network of Young People living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) took the initiative in 2014 after a girl was rejected from attending a beauty contest due to her HIV status. Up to date the event has successfully grown into a huge nation-wide three months campaign with ambitions to expand beyond the borders of Uganda. uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.