"After the pageant, doors really opened for me," Miss Autism Kenya 2019 winner Sarah Bosibori said of the event organized to raise awareness and alleviate the stigma around the condition.
Among the doors that opened for her included being featured by various media platforms, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and getting platforms to create awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), a series of several conditions that affect the development of the brain.
Ms. Bosibori also got an invite to visit the Northern African nation of Morocco, an opportunity she says was “an amazing opportunity.”
"I was invited there for an event held by an organization that supports children with autism there. They had different kinds of persons with autism – young children, adults, teenagers – who came to perform what they are good at," she recalled the Morocco visit.
She noted that the organization invited her to the event meant to raise awareness about autism because of the unique way she did her catwalk during the Miss Autism Kenya 2019 beauty pageant in Nairobi.
"They liked the fact that I was dancing when doing my catwalk on the runway. I am half Somali and half Kisii, so I went there to dance Somali, and they really enjoyed it," the beauty queen added, referencing her visit to Morocco.
The beauty queen title also offered her an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion for persons with autism in 2021 and act as a judge in Miss Autism Kenya 2022.
Besides elevating her status as an advocate for persons with autism, Ms. Bosibori, who was diagnosed with the condition at 10, says winning the beauty pageant also impacted her.
“I did not realize I was going to win it (beauty pageant). It was the biggest accomplishment in my life and journey of accepting that I’m autistic,” she noted.
In an interview with BBC after her win in the beauty pageant, Ms. Bosibori said, "I will tell the world autism is no curse. Autism is a blessing."
Held annually in April by Step up for Autism and other partners, the beauty pageant aims to raise awareness about autism and eradicate the stigma around the condition.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a series of several conditions that affect the development of the brain. They are characterized by difficulties in communication and social interactions. Though autism characteristics can be detected early in life, the condition is not diagnosed until a later age.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least one child among 100 has the condition. The severity of the condition varies among persons, with some being able to live independently while others need constant care. Nonetheless, with adequate support, persons with autism can live a quality life.
In his message on the World Autism Awareness Day 2022, marked on April 2, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all persons to reaffirm their "commitment to an inclusive, equitable and sustainable world for persons with autism."