Source: Tanznia Daily News
FIRST Ladies in Africa and beyond have an obligation through their positions to spur national development in their respective countries by spearheading improvements in provision of health care, education and economic growth, said immediate former US First Lady Laura Bush.

Ms Bush made the remarks in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday on the first day of the two-day African First Ladies Summit which carried a theme; "Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa." The summit, which is organised by the George Bush Institute is set to end on Wednesday.

"Educating and empowering women is an investment in the future of any nation," Ms Bush said, urging fellow first ladies to encourage better education, health care and enabling economic environment for women and girls.

Speaking earlier at the occasion, President Jakaya Kikwete lauded first ladies who had attended the summit and former US President George W. Bush and his wife for organising the meeting through their institute and choosing Tanzania as a host.

"Women have more crucial roles in the society other than taking care of children, investing in women will not only benefit their children but the nation as a whole.

"Even with their hardworking spirit, women are still faced with poverty because they hardly benefit from their toil," President Kikwete told a number of first ladies who are attending the international summit.

Mr Kikwete, who has been on the forefront to empower women economically and accessing better health services, also blasted some outdated African traditions and beliefs which he said were to blame for the oppression of women.

He was optimistic, just like Ms Bush, that when women are educated, empowered economically and provided with better health care, they would be enabled to fight household poverty and bring about national development.

On her part, Mama Salma Kikwete showered praises on Ms Bush as well as Britain's Former First Lady Cherie Blair for their continued efforts to support African women.

US First Lady Michelle Obama said first ladies have a choice to support initiatives that touch their hearts for the benefit of their countries.

"As first ladies we can choose to support programmes that touch our hearts and this is because we have the opportunity and clout to do so," Ms Obama, who has been accompanying her husband Barack Obama in his African tour that ended yesterday in Tanzania, said.

Ms Obama urged fellow first ladies to have in place programmes and strategies to support their countries even after their spouses leave office.

"We must realise that people hear and watch what we are doing in our positions and therefore even after our husbands are not in office these people will expect us to speak for them and support them...they will still watch to see what we can do for them," she remarked.

The summit was attended by a number of African First Ladies including Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza (Mozambique), Sia Nyama Koroma (Sierra Leone), Nompumelelo Zuma (South Africa), Janet Museveni (Uganda) and Roman Tesfaye (Ethiopia).

Other notable women at the summit included former Speaker of the African Union Parliament, Ms Getrude Mongela, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, Ms Sophia Simba as well as Ms Regina Lowassa, wife of former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and former cabinet minister Zakhia Meghji.

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