Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Miss Niger?

When looking through the statistics, I discovered that someone from the World Wide Web had found his way to my site through the keywords "Miss Niger". Seeing that Ishtar News is not much about fashion and lightly-dressed women, the person obviously did not linger, but my interest was awakened as to is there even such a thing as a Miss Niger? After twenty-something years in this country, I have never heard of it, but that could of course be due to my personal lack of interest in Western culture being imposed as a "good thing".

I still don't know if he/she was looking for one of the Nigerian "Miss Niger State" (not only do the neighboring countries have similar, Nigeria also has a state called Niger, adding to the confusion) or the Nigerien "Miss Niger"; but the thing was, I didn't even know that Niger had one.

I checked it out on the Internet and found one Miss Niger (from Niger, not Nigeria) who participated in the Miss Africa International beauty contest, but that did not seem to be an official Niger thing. More interestingly, I found an article by David Simpson, entitled:
Niger: beauty and the beast, which emphasis on how the Nigerien beauty contest was sponsored by the dominant tobacco companies.
Last year's Miss Niger beauty contest demonstrates how the new, smaller tobacco companies can give the big boys a run for their money when it comes to saturation brand coverage in the youth market. The contest was sponsored by Fine cigarettes, manufactured by Seita/Altadis and distributed by Sitab Niger. The wife of Niger's President attended, together with the tourism minister and, significantly for this highly fashion and music conscious nation, a clutch of famous clothes designers and musicians. The event attracted droves of young people and gained extensive television and newspaper coverage. Attractive young women distributed Fine cigarettes, T shirts, caps and bags. Fine also sponsors a biennial international festival of African fashion. Fine's sister brand Excellence sponsors the National Youth Festival, a cultural and sports event attended by more than 3000 young people, and traditional wresting, the most popular sport in Niger, which is covered live on television.
I learned two things in all of this: first of all that there has actually been a Niger Beauty contest (although I have no evidence that there has been one of the last few years) and secondly, that they were run by tobacco companies, who used the opportunity to spread their glorious image of "accomplished people" to the Nigerien middle class. Cigarettes are not expensive in Niger, and this availability makes far too many people dependent on them, without be aware of the damages that they do. Let's not forget that Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Concerning politics, Simpson goes on to write:

It is not hard to envisage the odds stacked against any politician or government official who might try to ban tobacco promotion in Niger.

I remember myself what happened when the President wanted to ban the French national lottery from the country - it just wasn't possible and it cost him dearly. I'm really glad that I'm not in charge of a poor nation, because when you are dependent on others, you also have to dance to their cue. You may not agree with Western tobacco or lottery policies, but you are still forced to accept them. If not, all aid and development investments will be pulled back and Niger depends on foreign aid. I can only imagine what that does to your own pride and to the integrity of the nation.

As an idealist, I am proud to be working for Eden, helping people achieve a sustainable life and become independent of all foreign aid. The fruit-bearing trees and bushes that they are establishing allow them to make their own choices in life; and we are spared of tobacco companies running the show.



Ahoy! said...

Hej Ishtar! Some of your entries remind me of my own blog on Sweden (you visited yesterday :-) ) I guess we both (like many others) write about the stuff that intrigue us in the countries we are in. The great part about it is that it's all about discovering and learning new things both about our own countries and the ones we visit. Some of these may be good and others may not be, but anyhow writing about them gives new perspectives on the otherwise mundane... like your entry on the sunbathing lizard :-)

The only difference with our blogs is I guess I don't have a social cause like you as a reason for staying in a country. My own reasons are studying, and of course, love (hehe!) Amazing what you're doing, keep it up! :-)


Ishtar said...

Hi Ahoy! Thanks for dropping by! Right now I'm writing even more "stuff" about my country as I'm not even there... but the countdown is working its way downwards! Cheers!

Tariku, Ethiopia said...

There is no neeed to "impose" beauty pageants. They are quite popular throughout the world!