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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Kenyan inmates in beauty contest
By John Nene
BBC News, Nairobi

With their eye-catching outfits, sparkling make-up and bright smiles, one could hardly believe the women striding along the catwalk in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, were prisoners.

Miss Langata Fatia Wairimu
Miss Langata is looking forward to doing a beauty course
They each received a round of applause as they walked past the judges in Kenya's largest women's prison, Langata.

The master of ceremonies at the Miss Langata contest was former Kenya Polytechnic College lecturer Judy Akinyi, who is serving a nine-year jail term for trafficking heroin.

Thirty inmates entered the preliminary round, with 12 qualifying for the finals.

Finally, 26-year-old Fatia Wairimu was crowned Miss Langata.

She impressed the judges with her eloquence and confidence.

"I feel good, I feel excited. Being crowned Miss Langata will change my life," said Wairimu, who is almost at the end of a three-year sentence for possessing cannabis.

Reform

The Miss Langata beauty pageant is one of the government's ambitious reform programmes in Kenyan jails.

Inmates at the Langata prison

Wanini Kireri, who is the head of Langata women's prison, is the brains behind the introduction of the beauty show.

"It all started when I read a magazine article about prisoners staging a beauty contest," she said.

"When I came to Langata, I wanted to make a change. I did not want to get into the usual routine."

One stumbling block in the implementation of Ms Kireri's idea was lack of support, as she could not do it on her own.

But Alice Kamunge of Vera Beauty College not only agreed to support the contest, but went even further to introduce a rehabilitation programme for the winners of the beauty pageant.

Ambition

She said that 12 women had graduated from her college and she had been able to give jobs to three of them.

Prison wardens
The wardens also let their hair down
"The biggest obstacle is we have few resources to help them to the next level," she said.

One of the beneficiaries of her programme is the inaugural Miss Langata, Milka Wanja, who says she feels more confident and ready to face life with vigour following her victory in the beauty show.

"I finished a hairdressing course and I got a professional placement, which I was dreaming of before," she said.

So, what's the ambition of Fatia Wairimu, the newly crowned Miss Langata?

"I'll first go for my hairdressing, beauty and modelling course and then I'll go to university."




SEE ALSO:
Kenyan prison bosses suspended
04 Oct 04 |  Africa
Kenya prison conditions slammed
29 Sep 04 |  Africa
Inside Kenya's 'worst' prison
04 Mar 03 |  Africa


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