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Shatu Garko, the First Hijabi to Become Miss Nigeria

When it comes to representation, women who don the hijabi continue to break into the mainstream, as role models, models, actresses, and influencers, giving a voice and a face to hijabis everywhere. In Nigeria, Shatu Garko joined the wave of such woman recently by becoming the first hijabi to be crowned Miss Nigeria, a major milestone for the nation and the region. The 44th pageant was held at the KIA Showroom, in Lagos State, where the eighteen-year-old native of Kano State went against 17 other contestants. She succeeded the previous winner, Etsanyi Tukura, who was crowned Miss Nigeria in 2019.

"Winning this competition means a lot to me. My whole life I have always wanted to be a Miss Nigeria. I'd like to thank Miss Nigeria and its sponsors. I would also like to thank my mum for supporting and loving me," she said before being crowned.

At the final event on December 17, Garko wanted to prove that religion and culture aren't barriers that should stop anyone from pursuing one's dreams. Hence, the reason why she decided to try her luck at the Miss Nigeria pageant. "I was worried they won't pick me because of my hijab. Most pageants wear swimsuits and bikinis and I just applied to Miss Nigeria to try my luck," she said.

Despite the glitz and glamor, the recent Miss Nigeria pageant faced some challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that also made Garko put university on hold to pursue a career in modeling. Regardless, the pageant went on without a glitch. Starting off with over 1,000 contestants, the number was shortlised to 120 when the time came for physical audition. The number was further reduced to18 finalists for the main event.

"This has always been about empowerment. Miss Nigeria platform is beyond the beauty pageant. We are very committed to empowering women, girls and providing opportunities for women to grow," Chioma Nwigwe, manager of Miss Nigeria Organization, told The Guardian.

As the winner, Garko was awarded cash prize of 10 million Naira (or around $20,000), a luxury apartment, a car, and ambassadorship. 

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