A forum on Hansen’s disease organized by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative was held in Poland on July 5, 2023, for beauty contestants from 65 countries gathered to compete for the title of Miss Supranational 2023.
Marking the beginning of a partnership between Miss Supranational and the Initiative, the two-hour forum aimed to introduce the contestants to leprosy, an infectious disease that remains a serious human rights issue, and to encourage them to become involved in raising awareness as part of their community service activities.
Established in Poland in 2009, Miss Supranational ranks alongside Miss Universe and Miss World among the top five international beauty pageants.
Despite its short history, the organizers aim to make the event more than just a beauty pageant but a “supranational” educational opportunity, with outstanding contestants from different countries participating each year to showcase their culture and values. At the same time, it is an opportunity for those taking part to make friends and interact with people from different backgrounds.
Judging criteria include not only looks but also knowledge and charity work, with contestants actively involved in championing causes that contribute to society, such as environmental protection and educational support.
“The Miss Supranational Hansen’s Disease Forum” opened with a speech by Mr. Andre Sleigh, the beauty pageant’s international operations manager. He spoke about the importance of tackling leprosy and emphasized the power of Miss Supranational to change the world through raising awareness.
Next came videos introducing leprosy and the activities of the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative.
This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Takahiro Nanri, executive director of Sasakawa Health Foundation, featuring Miss Supranational contestants Pragnya Ayyagari (India) and Sancler Frantz (Brazil), as well as Maya Ranavare from India’s Association of People Affected by Leprosy (APAL) and Faustino Pinto from Brazil’s Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen’s Disease (MORHAN).
Ayyagari’s introduction to leprosy came when she participated in the 2nd Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease organized by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative in Hyderabad, India, in November 2022, while Frantz has been active in the fight against Hansen’s disease in Brazil since 2013.
Ayyagari and Franz spoke on how they have been using their public profile to draw attention to leprosy, while Ranavare and Pinto gave the perspective of those with lived experience of the disease.
It was apparent that their comments had made a deep impression on the audience, and this was reflected in the many questions that followed in the Q&A session. In fact, there were so many that it was difficult to answer them all in the time available.
The forum proved to be a memorable event that increased the Miss Supranational contestants’ knowledge of Hansen’s disease and clearly motivated them to carry out awareness-raising activities in the future.
On July 14, panelist Sancler Frantz finished second runner-up in this year’s Miss Supranational pageant, while panelist Pragnya Ayyagari was crowned Miss Supranational Asia 2023. Our congratulations to them both!