Jeannette Kagame returned to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and was saddened by the aftermath of the tragedy. Kagame, who is a mother of four, soon began working with those widowed and orphaned due to the genocide. When her husband took office in 2000, she continued her philanthropic work through the creation of the Imbutu Foundation. The organization supports development in health and education. Kagame was also the founding member of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS. Her work has complimented her husband’s efforts to rebuild Rwanda.
Photo Credit: Jeannette Kagame, Flickr
Spouse: Blaise Compaoré
Occupation: President of Synergies Africanes
First Lady Compaoré has had quite a bit of time to make a difference in the lives of Burkina Faso’s children. Since her husband was elected president in 1991, she has acted as the head of a number of organizations focused on ending genital mutilation and the spread of HIV and AIDS. Her work has led to the creation of federal committees in the country.
Photo Credit: ITV Pictures, Flickr
Spouse: Armando Emílio Guebuza
Occupation: President of Instituto Criança Nosso Futuro
As president of Instituto Criança Nosso Futuro, or “the Child, Our Future Institute,” First Lady Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza works to improve literacy and the welfare of Mozambique’s orphans. She also launched an initiative as First Lady called “Children without Malaria.”
Photo Credit: en.starafrica.com
Spouse: Jakaya Kikwete
While speaking at the African First Ladies’ Summit in Tanzania, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a special shout out to Salma Kikwete for her work educating young orphan girls at her school in Dar es Saalam. Aside from her work with students at her self-named secondary school, Kikwete also supports efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, serving as Vice President of the Organization for African First Ladies Against AIDS.
Photo Credit: chingaone.com
Spouse: Michael Sata
Occupation: Obstetrician and Professor of Medicine
Even before becoming First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata was a busy woman. Kaseba-Sata was a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist as well as a professor at the University of Zambia’s School of Medicine, the country’s only medical school. As First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Kaseba-Sata has been a vocal advocate for women’s health and is currently chair of the Forum for African First Ladies against Breast and Cervical cancer.
Photo Credit: Africanaute.com
Spouse: Nelson Mandela
Occupation: Politician and Humanitarian
An honorary addition to this list is Graça Machel – the only person to ever have been the First Lady of two countries. Machel was only the official First Lady of South Africa for less than a year, but she was previously the first lady of Mozambique while married to her late husband, Samora Machel. Since Mandela left office in 1999, Machel has shared in his passion in advocating for peace and human rights. Even as her husband remains in hospital care, Machel stands as an example of strength and continues her work with Mandela’s organization, The Elders.
Photo Credit: The Elders