Zimbabwe: First Lady Attends Third Eurasian Women's Forum in Russia

15 October 2021

Tendai Rupapa in ST PETERSBURG, Russia

FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is here to attend the Third Eurasian Women's Forum, on Wednesday had a heart-to-heart discussion with the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Madam Valentina Matviyenko where they discussed issues of mutual interest, her philanthropic work, students scholarships, Covid-19 and investment in Zimbabwe among other issues.

The meeting which took place on the sidelines of the forum, was held in a warm, relaxed and friendly environment with the Federation Council Speaker showing a keen interest in exploring partnerships with the First Lady's Angel of Hope Foundation.

Amai Mnangagwa was invited to the Third Eurasian Women's Forum in recognition of her philanthropic work a sign that her hard work has reached far and wide thus getting International acclaim.

The Third Eurasian Women's forum an international women's platform aimed at promoting the women's agenda in line with sustainable development, was officially opened by the Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday.

In the meeting, the Federation Council Speaker and the First Lady happily shook hands, embraced and had photographs taken together.

Madam Matviyenko actually hugged the First Lady and jokingly remarked: "I know we are all Covid-19 free" before they had a woman to woman talk.

Delegates attending the forum are being tested for Covid-19 daily.

The Federation Council Speaker readily accepted an invitation that was extended to her by the First Lady to visit Zimbabwe and have a first hand account of the Zimbabwean experience.

"I would love to visit Zimbabwe and all arrangements would be made through the correct diplomatic protocols. We look forward to further cooperation and continued partnership between Zimbabwe and Russia. We are exploring other areas of assistance," she said.

The speaker said more Russian companies were keen to invest in Zimbabwe and this dovetails with President Mnangagwa's "Zimbabwe is open for business" mantra.

Also on discussion was the issue of Zimbabwean students on scholarships to Russia to be increased from 65 to 80 per year.

So far, nearly 300 Zimbabwean students are studying on scholarships in Russia.

In her heart-warming remarks, Madam Matviyenko described Zimbabwe as a reliable partner of Russia on the African continent.

"2021 marks 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In recent years our interaction has been progressing and we are interested in developing the entire range of bilateral relations. We attach great importance to the inter-parliamentary cooperation and look forward to its further development," she said.

The Federation Council speaker said she was happy with the work the First Lady was doing in the country and they would discuss more about her Angel of Hope Foundation.

Through her foundation, the First Lady told the speaker, she was encouraging women who failed to complete their education for various reasons to go back to school saying that was another tool which was important in empowering women.

Amai Mnangagwa also told her that apart from the Covid-19 issues which Russia assisted Zimbabwe, she was also raising awareness in communities countrywide on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) urging people to undergo regular medical check-ups to allow early diagnosis and treatment of these ailments to curb avoidable deaths.

"I would like to thank the Russian Government for standing with Zimbabwe in this Covid-19 era where Zimbabwe received the first vaccine from Russia in away to protect Zimbabwean citizens. This shows Russia's humanity and willingness to assist others who are in need," she said. The Federation Council Speaker added that Russia had filed a request for the production of Covid-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe as a major show of cooperation between the two countries.

Russia, the speaker said, recognised the anti-sanctions march and stood in solidarity with Zimbabwe.

October 25 was declared anti-sanctions day in Zimbabwe where nations from various regions across the globe stand in solidarity with the nation and denounce the embargo which has affected economic progress in the country and cut access to lines of credit.

Madam Matviyenko said they invited the First Lady to Russia after seeing the socio-economic activities that she has been carrying out in Zimbabwe.

"You are addressed as the mother of the nation and it is a title that we value very much here in Russia," she said.

Moscow, she added, "values the relationship that it has with Zimbabwe and the relations have been progressing further and the meeting between the two Presidents became a milestone of relations. We appreciate the cooperation on international platforms between the Zimbabwean and Russian government.

"We understand there is no need to impose the human rights agenda to interfere with internal affairs hence our decision to veto in 2008. We recognise the anti sanctions march and we stand in solidarity with Zimbabwe," she said.

In 2019, the First Lady and Christians from various religious denominations joined other Zimbabweans in a march against illegal sanctions imposed on the country where she led from the front.

This followed a declaration by Sadc Heads of State and Government at their summit in Tanzania in August that year that the whole region stood in solidarity with Zimbabwe in the fight against illegal sanctions. Russia is sending humanitarian assistance to friendly nations in need across the globe. In Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai survivors received assistance from Russia.

The First Lady said she was glad to participate in the Eurasian Women's Forum and paid tribute to the strong bilateral relations between Russia and Zimbabwe that date back to the liberation struggle.

"This is an undeniable bond and as we celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations in February of this year, I believe it is important to not just look at our historical ties, but also provide the foundation to create an even better future for the betterment of both our people and generations to come," she said.

She said it was pleasing that the two nations' decades old friendship was also morphing into closer economic ties.

On more Russian companies wiling to invest in Zimbabwe, Amai Mnangagwa said it was commendable.

She further praised Russia for vetoing and denouncing in 2008 the attempt by some western countries to pass a resolution against Zimbabwe at the United Nations Security Council.

"Zimbabwe greatly appreciated Russia's stance and also welcomed the country's support towards the Southern African Community (Sadc) initiative to declare 25 October as solidarity day against unilateral and illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. I assure you that the Government and people of Zimbabwe will continue to stand by our Russian allies and friends," she said.

She extolled the Government of Russia for the wide-ranging higher education scholarships that had resulted in nearly 300 Zimbabwean scholarship students studying in the Russian Federation in a wide range of subjects from geology and mining engineering to medicine and information technology.

"The skills and knowledge they acquire immensely contribute to the development of Zimbabwe and the personal friendships between Zimbabwean and Russian students help foster an air of trust and mutual understanding between our peoples. This will also empower girls and young women from marginalised communities," she said.

The Eurasian Women's Forum, regularly held since 2015, has become the largest international platform uniting female leaders from all continents where they can discuss the role of women in the modern world and work out new approaches to solving global problems.

The Forum is running under the theme, "Women: A Global Mission in a New Reality".

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