A Polish organization held first-ever Miss Wheelchair World in a bid to break down the barriers for differently-abled women. The competition witnessed the participation of 24 young women from 19 countries including India.

“It does not matter who wins the crown. We are all winners,” said Maria Diaz, the 28-year old contestant from Chile who is also a Paralympic tennis player.

The event featured contestants in national costumes and evening dresses. Besides the looks, the contestants were also adjudged on their personality and dance moves. The contestants performed dance moves by moving their wheelchairs.

In the event, they spoke about their challenging lives in wheelchairs. All the contestants were happy to show the world that they can do anything they wish to.

First Miss Wheelchair World held to change the image of differently-abled women

“My life changed 12 years ago. Of these, 10 years after my injury, I work a lot with the people who got into a wheelchair due to accidents,” says Uliana from Ukraine, who is now a world champion in Karate. Carla Maia from Brazil has a tetraplegia since she was seventeen but today she works as a TV reporter and covers international sports events.

First Miss Wheelchair World held to change the image of differently-abled womenSimilarly, Rajalakshmi, who represented India at the event, suffered major spinal cord injury in a road accident. But despite being in a wheelchair, she completed bachelors of dental surgery, a course in psychology, fashion designing and Vedic yoga, and later won the Miss Wheelchair India in 2014.

“Of course we are in wheelchairs, but that is a fate that can hit anyone, anytime. It’s a common saying of handicapped women that we didn’t ask to be handicapped… that we want to be considered ordinary people after all,” says Wojtaszek-Ginalska, the head of Only One Foundation which organized the beauty contest. Ginalska is also confined to a wheelchair.

Ginalska has been organizing the beauty contests for handicapped in Poland for past four years. But this is the first time the event has gone global. Each nation could send at most two participants, who were chosen either on national rounds or by an NGO selected by the organizers. India was represented at the event by Rajalakshmi and Priya Bhargava.

First “Miss Wheelchair World” held to change the image of differently-abled women

While Alexandra Chichikova, a 23-year old psychology student from Belarus won the crown, Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa and Adrianna from Poland were the first and second runner-ups respectively. Rajalakshmi won the title of Miss Popularity after she received the highest number of public votes among all the participants.

A Guardian report informs of a rehearsal incident where wheelchair-confined contestants were asked to raise their right hands as a part of their dance performance. But when the American contestant Jennifer Lynn cried, “I don’t have a right hand”, she received an applause from all hands at the rehearsal.

First Miss Wheelchair World held to change the image of differently-abled women

“I was born with partial limbs so I have to be adaptive to the music, to the choreography but that’s okay… we all have something that limits us but we can adapt beyond it and we can shine beyond our limitations,” Jennifer said.