For the past two decades, we have had a very different First Lady. It is not my intention to delve into the recent past or to bring up painful memories, but we can all agree that Grace Mugabe was the polar opposite of herpredecessor. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that just a few weeks after her removal, there are not many Zimbabweans that miss her. Instead, we have missed having a strong female figure at the side of the president - a role model, a clear moral voice, and a fighter for those less fortunate.
Across the world, the role of the First Lady has developed, and the concept of a First Couple - in which the President and their spouse work together to tackle the challenges facing the country - is emerging. Within this context, the First Lady can take on a policy role, advocating for causes close to her heart, a moral role in articulating the views and interests of weaker elements of society, and can also be a point of influence in the administration. In many cases, the First Lady ends up even more popular than the president himself. Just look at Michelle and Barak Obama.
In her first few weeks as First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa has adopted a very different profile to her predecessor. Her surprise visit to Harare Central Hospital is just one example of this. Instead of all the fanfare and drama we are accustomed to, the new First Lady arrived at the hospital unannounced, without a big entourage in tow. In fact, so unassuming and humble was she, that supposedly the nurses went about their business completely unaware of her presence.But this humility should not be mistaken for a lack of an agenda. Quite the opposite. During her visit she made every effort to understand the problems facing the institution, to offer support to the nurses, hospital workers and patients. She visited the hospital to learn and to comfort. Because she cares about our women and children. Because she cares about Zimbabwe She made the visit about the hospital, its staff and its patients, not about her. What a breath of fresh air!
I have no doubt that this hospital visit is just the start for Auxillia. In this she clearly represents a new era. Just like Grace was a 180 degree departure from Sally, so is Auxillia a total shift from Grace. We have come full circle.
There is a tradition around the world of First Ladies taking on policy issues to focus on. Michelle Obama set about tackling childhood obesity. Margaret Kenyatta is reducing child maternal mortality rates.There have already been entreaties by Members of Parliament for Auxillia to take the lead in the fight against cancer, and this could be a noble cause for her to champion. Alternatively, she could focus on education and awareness raising campaigns against either teenage pregnancy or gender based violence, both desperately needed as all women in Zimbabwe would attest. I for one am excited to see what she chooses to focus on.
As a proud Zimbabwean, who was desperate for change, I look at our new first couple with a sense of satisfaction. We have a listening president who seems determined to move our country forward and build a new Zimbabwe, and a First Lady who embodies the values we cherish and have so dearly missed: humility, empathy and respect. After two decades without one, it feels like we have found the Mother of Nation we were longing for. Instead of craving power, she wants to empower women and children. In place of Gucci Grace, we have Amai Auxillia.
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