By Gakii Riungu
The role of a First Lady is not an elected one and carries no official duties. Nonetheless, the following First Ladies have used their highly visible position in society to work with disadvantaged and marginalized groups in African society.
1). Jeannete Kagame
Jeannete Kagame Rwanda’s First Lady. She is 53 years old with four children. Her significant contribution to wordwide fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty earned her a Honorary Doctorate degree of Law from Oklahoma Christian University. First Lady Jeannete co-founded “Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS “OALFA” as well as the “Protection and Care of Families against HIV/AIDS (PACFA) now known as “Imbuto foundation” which focuses on providing a holistic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and care for the whole family as well as engaging, empowering, and educating the young generation to become change makers. Her personal creed is “A seed well planted, watered, nurtured and given all the necessary support successfully grows into a healthy plant – one that reaches high and stands tall.”
She has served on boards of numerous international organizations including: Friends of the Global Fund Africa, the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and the Global Coalition of Women against HIV & Aids.
2). Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta
She is the Kenyan First Lady. She is 52 years old with three children. In 2014, First Lady Margaret was named the United Nations Person of the Year for her successful campaign to reduce child maternal mortality rates through the “Beyond Zero Campaign” initiative. This project has raised millions of shillings in changing the lives of women. She also organizes the annual First lady marathon event that raises funds for Beyond Zero.
Early this year, Cindy McCain, wife to respected American senator and former Republican presidency torchbearer John McCain hosted a VIP reception in honour of the First Lady Margaret at Arizona Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Cindy was not short of compliments for Maggie:
“First Lady Margaret is empathetic, warm, strong and a generous woman who has become a major inspiration to all Kenyans. Her personal will and determination has elevated her to be among the top women in the front-line of Africa’s social change and transformation. Many successes in Africa can be attributed to women. You are a strong woman and major inspiration to the people of Kenya. We are impressed with your work of helping the most vulnerable people of Kenya – women and children.”
3). Nana Lordina Mahama
She is the first lady of the Republic of Ghana. She is 53 years old with three children. She holds a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a master’s in governance and leadership from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.
In 2015, Fordham University conferred an honorary doctoral degree in Humane Letters upon First Lady Lordina for her years of work in humanitarian work. During the commencement ceremony, the university president Joseph M. McShane noted:
“In conferring an honorary degree upon Mrs. Mahama, it is we who are honored. Her work with women and children in Ghana and across Africa reminds us of persistence of kindness and the will to make a difference in the world.”
First Lady Lordina is also an internationally respected advocate for empowering women and helping the poor and marginalized and has also served as President of the organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), whose goal is making Africa a continent free from HIV/AIDS, maternal and child mortality, and a place where women and girls are empowered to enjoy equal rights and opportunism
Her pet project is the Lordina Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that works with partner companies and agencies to make health care more accessible in Ghana and to expand educational opportunities. In addition to working on behalf of the disadvantaged, she strives to advance the cause of educating women and girls as a way to improve communities worldwide.
Among her many advocacy efforts, Lordina helped secure the Ghanaian government’s approval of a World Bank program to provide secondary school scholarships to 10,400 Ghanaian children—half of them girls—who come from deprived communities.
4). Janet Museveni
She is the first Lady of the Republic of Uganda. She is 68 years old with four children and 4 grandchildren. She founded “Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans which encourages and helps grandmothers to fill in to care and raise grandchildren, after their parents die from HIVAIDS virus. This has reduced the number of homeless orphans in Uganda. She has also taught women on sustainability and healthy life choices by engaging them in programs where they learn how to grow food to feed their own communities. She launched Safe Motherhood programs across Uganda to provide micro-lending for women and thus enabling them to start their own business. She published her memoirs titled “My Life’s Journey” and currently serves as minister for Education and Sports.
5). Claudine Dominque Ouattara
She is the First Lady of Cote D’ Ivoire. She is 62 years old and has two children. Her education background is in Languages, Economics, and Property Management. She founded “Children of Africa Foundation” an organization which aims at assisting distressed children in Africa.
She also serves as the chair-woman of the Ivorian government’s recently created National Oversight Committee, responsible for reviewing actions to combat child labor and child-trafficking (cocoa sector). She signed an agreement with the World Cocoa Foundation (WTF) in Washington, DC to develop and implement educational and vocational training programs to benefit cocoa farmers and families in her country. This agreement is valued at $3.6 million and is to benefit 12, 000 Ivorians through successful educational curriculum such as expansion of access to quality universal basic education, developing human resources through vocational training for youth and women, and mobilizing communities, district assemblies, the cocoa industry and others to work together to address development challenges in cocoa communities.
6). Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
She is the First Lady of Gabon. She is 51 years old and has four children. She has an advanced level degree “DESS in “Corporate Management. She is the founder of an organization called “For the Family,” an initiative to improve the plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the world. The organization has given rise to a project called “Caravan Through Gabon’s Hinterland”.
The mission is to record grievances raised by residents of the country’s more isolated areas. Through her organization she named June 23rd as “International Widows’ Day. In 2011 her foundation donated a total of 18,000 mosquito screens to the Gabonese population. In 2010, the foundation also donated 250 electric scooters, crutches and wheelchairs to benefit several associations working to improve the lives of the disabled. The foundation has a microfinance project that helps facilitate entrepreneurship among Gabonese women and their families called “Akassi”
7). Aisha Muhammadu Buhari
She is the First Lady of Nigeria and aged 44 years. She has five children and a grandchild. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration, a Masters degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies as well as a Diploma in Beauty Therapy- permanent Make-up, Mesotheraphy and Micro-dermabrasion as well as a post –graduate diploma in cosmetology and beauty. She is currently taking a counseling course on Co-dependency in the United Kingdom.
She is a member of the United Kingdom Vocational Training and Charitable Trust and the International Health and Beauty Council.
She is a business-woman and an author of published book “Essentials of Beauty Therapy: A complete Guide for Beauty Specialists”. She founded “Future Assured to further her work in women’s right and children’s right advocate. She is also working with Internally Displaced Persons due to Boko Haram insurgency