Zambia: US Officials Pay Tribute to First Lady's Charity Work

Former United States of America (US) president George W Bush's aide, Anita McBride has praised Zambian First Lady Thandiwe Banda for her decision not to form a foundation and instead work with already-existing non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

And an adviser to US President Barack Obama has called for the strengthening of capacity in the offices of African first ladies if they are to meaningfully contribute to national development in their respective countries.

Mrs McBride said Mrs Banda's decision to work with existing NGOs had accorded her the time to focus her energy on more areas of need than she would if she formed her own foundation.

Mrs McBride was speaking at the on-going African First Ladies' Fellowship Programme here.

Mrs Banda also drew praise from White Ribbon Alliance deputy director at the global secretariat Betsy McCallon who said she had done a commendable job in advocating safe motherhood.

"Mrs Banda must be commended for getting the message across. She has even visited other countries advocating safe motherhood. This shows us that first ladies have tremendous power to bring people together and bring legitimacy to issues," she said.

The first course in the African First Ladies' Fellowship Programme is aimed at introducing first ladies and their staff and advisors to various strategies for establishing and managing an effective first lady's office and to a leadership development and policy-analysis framework for improving executive decision-making.

Over a two-year period, first ladies and fellows will develop and implement a plan to address one of their nation's top challenges, such as maternal and child health, women's issues or education.

And President Obama's deputy assistant for domestic policy Jocelyn Frye said first ladies had a critical role to play in shaping their countries' policies.

"Each first lady is different, the priorities are different and the style is different. But they all play a very important role in shaping national policy although they have no statutory authority," said Ms Frye, who is also director of policy and special projects for US First Lady Michelle Obama.

The two presidential aides were speaking during a panel discussion which included former special assistant to president Bill Clinton Jennifer Klein who is now senior advisor at the State Department.

The African First Ladies' Fellowship Programme is being conducted under the auspices of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in collaboration with the American University.

It is aimed at strengthening the capacity of African first ladies and their offices to address health and social problems across Africa and has attracted first ladies' chiefs of staff and advisers from Angola, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia.

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