Across the African continent, First Ladies are generally considered the ‘Mother of the Nation’, and are often expected to be unifying figures, serving the president of the nation and the voters who entrusted him the mandate to lead.
While the position of first lady is not legally or constitutionally provided for in many countries, many presidencies cater for the Office of the First Lady, through which the holder is facilitated to champion social causes.
The Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), created in 2002, brings together First Ladies of Africa ‘to advocate for policies that make health services accessible and laws that boost women and youth empowerment’.
OAFLAD is currently led by First Lady of Burkina Faso, Adjoavi Sika Kabore, who is deputised by her Kenyan counterpart Margaret Kenyatta. A first lady by definition is the wife of the head of state, and it therefore follows that most African nations led by a male president, have a first lady.SUGGESTED READING: Celebrating African First Ladies
In this article, we will share updates from the continent’s First Ladies as they take on different roles to complement their government’s policies.
Gabon First Lady celebrates coronavirus mural
As most presidents take decisions to curtail spread of coronavirus pandemic which has seen rising cases across the continent, First Ladies are doing their part in supporting education and in other instances making donations.
Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the Gabonese First Lady through her social media handles shared photos of COVID-19 themed murals from the University of Dakar. From a person coughing in flexed elbows, coughing into a tissue and properly disposing it off and washing of hands with soap.
She titled it: “Art at the service of all. ❤ A very nice idea from the University of Dakar in collaboration with a collective of artists to raise awareness of the preventive gestures of the #Covid19.”
This is only the latest in a series of posts that the First Lady has made about the pandemic since it was first reported in the country. Her handles have also shared government intervention efforts in the oil-rich Central African country. As at March 30, Gabon had 7 cases with a death according to Africa Centre for Disease Control.
Botswana First Lady joins #SafeHands challenge
First Lady of Botswana Neo Jane Masisi on Thursday joined the #safehands challenge started by WHO boss Tedros Ghabreyesus weeks back. The idea is to advocate the washing of hands with soap as a prevention measure for the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO chief challenges among other Rwandan president Kagame, who accepted the challenge. So far Ethiopian Prime Minister, Senegal President, Ethiopian President, a raft of global celebrities and sportsmen have all taken part.
Botswana is one of few African countries that have not recorded any case of the coronavirus. The government has intensified education on preventive measures while capacity is boosted from a COVID-19 fund set up by government.
Thank you— Neo Jane Masisi (njmasisi) March 19, 2020
DrTedros! The WHO #SafeHands challenge is on; as I nominate His Excellency President of Botswana – Mokgweetsi Masisi
OfficialMasisi, His Honour Vice President of Botswana SlumberTsogwane and Her Excellency First Lady of Namibia – Monica Geingos
Buhari’s daughter in self-isolation
A member of Nigeria’s first family is in self isolation, first lady Aisha Muhammadu Buhari confirmed on Thursday. Hanan Buhari, a first daughter, is in self isolation after returning from the United Kingdom.
“Based on the advice of the Hon. Minister Of Health , Presidential Task force on COVID – 19 and that of NCDC, She is on Self Isolation, not because she displayed any symptoms of the Covid-19,” her mother wrote on Twitter.
Nigeria on Wednesday banned thirteen high-risk countries from entering into the territory over the coronavirus pandemic. Seven of those countries were in Europe including the U.K. Nigeria currently has eight cases of the COVID-19 according to the country’s disease control outfit.
“Please I urge all parents to do the same if possible as prevention is better than cure. Similarly, I have shut down my office for two weeks with immediate effect while essential staff can work from home as a result of some Staff who recently returned from the UK, she added.
Good afternoon Nigerians,— Aisha M. Buhari (@aishambuhari) March 19, 2020
Earlier today my daughter returned from the UK being among the high Burden listed countries of COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/cku3bzcIJS
Ghana First Lady cancels event over coronavirus
A planned event by Ghana’s First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has been cancelled due to the reported cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The event, which was scheduled for later this evening was to award some Ghanaian women as part of the National Women’s Month celebration.
A spokesperson for the First Lady, Sheila Sekyi said the office does not want to take chances after two cases were reported yesterday [Thursday]. Sheila Sekyi said the cancellation is in the interest of the public.
“I think yesterday we were notified by the Ministry of Health that there have been two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in Ghana so as a precautionary measure we had to cancel this international women’s day high-level event scheduled for this evening just to prevent and also lead the way in avoiding public meeting of such a nature and avoiding possible spread.
“We are paying close attention to what the authorities who are in charge of managing the situation have to say about it so, for now, this is the event that we have had a need to cancel.”
Zimbabwe First Lady gets class one driver’s license
Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa as part of Wonemn’s month activities has undergone training in defensive driving and was on Wednesday awarded a first class license, state broadcaster ZBC reported.
The report said the First Lady’s action was also to inspire other women to take driving seriously given that the country generally had a low number of especially public transport drivers.
Mrs Mnangagwa, after receiving her Class One driver’s licence in Harare is quoted as saying: “Women are the most careful drivers and I have done it so I urge women to also consider taking class one and save the lives of people on the roads. I have done it and women can do it.”
ZBC shared photos on Twitter of the first lady driving a public bus ostensibly as part of her training and testing process. A Vehicle Inspection Department official applauded the First Lady for being a careful driver, the report added.
“She has passed the test and am happy that she is a careful driver. Women are generally good drivers and I urge other women to follow suit,” he said.
All photos are courtesy the ZBC Twitter handle
Kenya First Lady’s NGO organizes annual marathon
On March 8, “Beyond Zero,” a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, run by Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta will hold an annual Half Marathon in the capital Nairobi. Incidentally the day coincides with the International Women’s Day celebrated across most parts of the world.
“The Beyond Zero Half Marathon 2020 celebrates all those who have partnered with Beyond Zero throughout the years.
“The Beyond Zero Initiative has used the Half Marathon as the anchor fundraising platform, raising funds and resources to bring to focus key challenges facing Kenyans and build strategic partnerships that will address these challenges,” the NGO said on the event website.
In this year’s edition, participants will select causes to run for across a number of categories from Wheel Chair / Tri-Cycle, Half Marathon (21 Km), 10 Km & Corporate Race and 5 Km Race & 2km Pregnant Walk:
Participants using the #iwillrun hashtag can declare their engagements in any of the areas below:
- I will run for zero child deaths
- I will run for zero maternal deaths
- I will run for zero FGM
- I will run for a healthy lifestyle for the elderly
- I will run for early screening of cancer
- I will run for inclusion of persons who are differently abled
- I will run for better nutrition for children
- I will run for zero child marriages
- I will run for zero HIV infections
Registration – online / manual costs 2,000 Kenyan shillings ($20) or 2500 shillings ($25) for elite contestants. Corporate participation is pegged at 150,000 shillings ($1460).
Zambian official fired for disrespecting First Lady
A mayor in Zambia has been relieved of his position in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, after he reportedly refused to greet the country’s First Lady.
The state-owned Daily Mail newspaper reported that Kitwe mayor Christopher Kang’ombe was suspended from the party last week and has now been stripped of his position as the PF’s vice-chairman in the Copperbelt Province.
Kang’ombe is accused of gross indiscipline that includes failing to line up to greet Esther Lungu when she recently visited the area, and refusing to be introduced at a public event attended by the First Lady.
‘‘During the visit of the First Lady, Kang’ombe was offered a back seat which he refused…After the church service, he refused to line up and greet the First Lady,’‘ reads part of his suspension letter, according to the Daily Mail.
“When the First Lady’s official envoy started off, he pulled away from the convoy and instead drove away,” it adds. Kang’ombe however still retains his mayoral post.
Updates from OAFLAD
La Première Dame du #Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta— Africa First Ladies (AFirstLadies) March 4, 2020
FirstLadyKenyaa lancé son programme d’élimination de la transmission mère-enfant du VIH et de la syphilis dans plusieurs comtés lors de la tournée médicale de #BeyondZero. #FirstLadies#AfricaFirstLadies#SayAfricaIsTheFuture pic.twitter.com/cfieZKxyex
This morning, President Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame joined residents of— First Lady of Rwanda (FirstLadyRwanda) March 1, 2020
CityofKigalifor the bi-weekly #CarFreeDay activities, organised today in line with the upcoming International Women's Day, celebrated every 8 March.#IWD pic.twitter.com/50RwQIwqDh
Merci à tous ces hommes qui s’engagent à nos côtés pour mettre fin à toutes les formes de discrimination auxquelles les #femmes et les filles sont confrontées. Ce combat est aussi le vôtre. Il ne pourra se gagner sans vous.#ZeroDiscrimination #PourElles #DroitdesFemmes #Egalité pic.twitter.com/OiSISCVt01— Sylvia Bongo Ondimba (@Sylviabongo) March 1, 2020
La Première Dame de la Côte D’Ivoire, Dominique Ouattara— Africa First Ladies (@AFirstLadies) March 3, 2020
dominiqueouata reçu le trophée de la Première Dame d’exception du #FAFEL pour l’ensemble de son engagement humanitaire. A noter la présence de Madame sambapanza #FirstLadies#AfricaFirstLadies#SayAfricaIsTheFuture pic.twitter.com/rQnOCXf9lc
Sierra Leone’s First Lady says ‘I Do’
Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio and his Muslim wife Fatima Bio on Friday exchanged their vows in a Catholic Church in the capital Freetown.
The couple were married in a civil ceremony in the United Kingdom seven years ago, before they became Sierra Leone’s First family.
Friday’s wedding was widely discussed in Sierra Leone especially following allegations by the president’s ex-wife that she wedded him before a Catholic priest in the east of the country.
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio and 1st Lady Fatima Bio exchange wedding vows once again today seven years after a traditional ceremony in the UK. It is going to be a low key ceremony with less fanfare . Reception to climax the event will be hosted at State Lodge— Jonathan Leigh (@Jonatha04140703) February 21, 2020
The solemnization of marriage between— AYV Media Empire (@AYVSierraLeone) February 21, 2020
PresidentBioand FirstLadyBio Maada Bio.
Live on AYV Television Channel 33, https://t.co/zypqEeE9ua, live Facebook and YouTube streaming: https://t.co/nCG7Z17uSX#AYVNews pic.twitter.com/0bhtmKpurj
It is a nightmare in sierra Leone, our president H.E Maada Bio is getting married while our economy is getting divorce!!!!— kadi Karlmax (@CoConteh) February 19, 2020
#SierraLeone president #MaadaBio is getting married on Friday, 21st Feb…started as a rumor about two days ago.— Mikail Abd-Allah “Israel” ibn Adama (@SeekingJustPath) February 20, 2020
A wedding that sends strange, given the other things that surround it…and it’s said he wants to marry his wife for the second time, this time in the catholic church
Education curriculum in Uganda
Uganda’s First Lady, who also serves as the education minister on Thursday appeared before the country’s parliament to defend the roll out of a new curriculum for secondary schools.
Members of parliament had raised several issues including scarcity of textbooks and insufficient training of teachers on the new curriculum that was to come into effect at the beginning of the school term this month.
While parliament had directed that implementation of the curriculum is suspended, the education ministry insisted on its roll out and started orienting teachers.
Appeal to criminals in Zambia
Zambia’s First Lady Esther Lungu on Tuesday broke down in tears as she appealed to perpetrators of gas attacks that have spread across the country, to stop.
“I’m making an earnest appeal to the people that are behind this gassing – to an extent of gassing innocent schoolchildren, innocent families….I am appealing, as the mother of the nation, I am appealing…,’‘ the First Lady told a group of women, before falling to her knees as she cried.
Police are struggling to arrest unidentified people that have been targeting homes and schools, spraying victims with a gas that leaves them unconscious.
Panicked citizens have resorted to protests, mob justice and mounting unauthorised patrols and searches of vehicles and persons they suspect to be behind the attacks.READ MORE: More mass hysteria over allegations of gassing
Lesotho’s murder scandal
Lesotho’s First lady is currently on trial for the murder of her rival, the ex-wife of the country’s prime minister Thomas Thabane.
Maesaiah Thabane appeared in court in Maseru on Tuesday, while police announced on Thursday that the premiere himself would also be charged in connection with the murder.
“Your case is still under investigation and is still awaiting direction from the Attorney General with regard to your co-accused being charged. Your case will be heard next on 17 March 2020”, said magistrate, Thamae Thamae.
Thabane married 43-year old Maesaiah two months after his ex-wife Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was gunned down near her home. The killing happened just two days before the Prime Minister was sworn into office.