Amid South Sudan's war, a Miss World pageant carries on

JUBA, South Sudan — Amid the ethnic violence, famine and mass displacement in South Sudan’s five years of civil war, a Miss World pageant carries on in one of the world’s most devastated countries.

Dozens of young women are using the international beauty pageants to advocate for peace at home and abroad. Contestants call the pageant a way to help others and change global perceptions.

“They think we’re just a war-torn country and then they see our girls,” one former supermodel says.

Women and girls have been targets of horrific violence in South Sudan’s conflict. For the vast majority of people in the deeply impoverished East African country, the annual beauty pageants are unknown or simply a dream.

But organizers are determined to deliver on the theme “beauty with a purpose.”