Africa

First black woman to become First Lady of two different countries

She became the first black woman to be the first lady of two different countries – Graca Machel of Mozambique origin became the first lady of the country in 1975. But in 1998, she got married to a South African president.

In 1986, a Mozambican woman, Graca Machel, became a widow when her then-husband, Samora Machel – the first president of independent Mozambique – died in a mysterious airplane crash within the border of South Africa. She met Machel in 1973 when she returned to Mozambique after her studies in Portugal.

Graca had then joined the Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front), which was led by Samora Machel because of her liberation ideals. The first black woman to be the first lady of two different countries was trained as a military officer and was also trained as a guerrilla.

Graca Machel and Machel became lover-bird during the revolutionary war and were married in August 1975, almost two months after Mozambique’s independence.

First black woman to become First Lady of two different countries
Graca and Samora Machel

Then, Graca became the First Lady of Mozambique. Not only that, but she also became the first Minister of Culture and Education. During her tenure as Minister of Education, Mozambique experienced an increase in school attendance.

From 1975 to 1985, the number of children; students enrolled in primary and secondary schools increased from about 40% of all school-aged pupils to over 90% for boys and 75% for girls.

When the then Mozambique first lady’s husband died in the plane crash, Graca resigned as Minister of Education. In addition to mourning the death of her husband, she wore black clothes for five years and was virtually helpless. But being a woman with extraordinary skills and study in Portugal, her husband’s death did not stop her from her work as a child advocate.

In 1991, at the urging of her 12-year-old son, Machel launched a foundation to fight poverty. She won the United Nations Nansen Medal for her work on children’s rights in refugee camps in 1995. The same year, she was advised to run for UN Secretary General. Still, she refuted the ideas, saying: “There is no political will,” referring to the political concept of the UN. “So what would I do there? The first black lady of two contries concluded.

Perhaps she was giving way to something more complicated: being the third wife of Nelson Mandela, the hero of South Africa. In the 1990s, Graca Machel was usually seen around Mandela, after their first official meeting, which was after his release from prison in 1990. The two became friends after Mandela’s divorce from Winnie, but this later turned into love.

Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel

On July 18, 1998, Graca married Mandela on her 80th birthday, making her the only black woman in history to become First Lady of two different countries: Mozambique and South Africa, respectively.

First black woman to become First Lady of two different countries

The then-first lady of South Africa was still an economic and political force in her country of origin. She once said of her marriage to two different leaders: “It was not two leaders who fell in love with me, but two real people. I feel privileged to have shared my life with two such exceptional men.”

Death of Mandela in December 2013.

Despite being married to two different prominent leaders, Machel said she would never want to be defined by her marriages. “I am not Samora’s wife,” she was allegedly have said in the past. “I am me.”

She was born on October 17, 1945, into a peasant family in the Gaza Province in Portuguese East Africa, now modern-day Mozambique. Graca Machel, at the age of six, won a scholarship to study in the capital of the country, Maputo, where she became the only African in a class full of white students.

After specializing in different language studies at the University of Lisbon in Portugal in 1968, the first lady of two different countries later left Portugal after developing her liberation policy due to her experience during her school years.

To date, she has received numerous awards, including the Africa Award for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger from the Hunger Project in 1992, the International Inter Press Service (IPS) Award for her work on behalf of children internationally, and the Africare Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award.

Source
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