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What do you expect from your first ladies?

Charlotte Attwood | 17:00 UK time, Monday, 17 May 2010

The BBC has been given exclusive access to several of the continent's first ladies and over the next few weeks you'll be able to hear what they have to say in our programmes. So, what do you think the role of the first lady should be?

First ladies in Africa have taken on a wide range of different roles in society, from setting up NGOs to simply using their powers of persuasion over their husbands. Would you rather have a quiet first lady who just stands at her husband's side or one that speaks out and is the voice of the people?

What role does your first lady play? Are there things you would like her to do? If we expect certain things from a first lady, should their role be made formal? Should it even be written into the constitution and given a budget? Send us your views.

If you would like to debate this topic LIVE on air on Tuesday 18 May at 1600 GMT, please send us a telephone number to africa@bbc.co.uk. You can also send an SMS message to +44 77 86 20 20 08.


  • Comment number 1.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] It is said that behind every successful husband is a good wife. If this is true then behind every rogue/brutal/wicked head-of-state-husband is a vicious wife. First Ladies who pretend to do good while their husbands oppress, murder and steal from the people who voted them into power are as guilty as their husbands. First Ladies who stick to rogue husbands who lead their countries to ruin and damnation should be roundly condemned. Good people don't stick on to bad people whom they cannot change over several years. Of the over fifty African leaders, the good ones can be counted on the fingers of one hand so it goes without saying that African presidential palaces are veritable evil nests. Only the First Ladies of good presidents should be given official roles while the majority of African First Ladies and their men should be bundled out of state houses to make way for really democratically elected heads of states.

  • Comment number 2.

    First lady is like president/Prime-minister in women part because most have special grant to run their affairs, why? not ask first-lady should act as a women affairs ministry since they have similar pattern and shapes. I can't beleive when i see firstlady been invited for lunching a federal or state projects with siren and tide security sometimes more than that of her husband. Here in Africa most of the our leaders had the habit of having more than 2,3 and 4 and/or all most have grants for their affairs. In my view the office of the firstlady should be merged with ministry for women affairs.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    To get lost and stop aggravating the misery inflicted on us by their crooked, incompetent and tyrannical husbands.

  • Comment number 5.

    What should a First Lady do? I'm not entirely sure, but I can give some examples of what they shouldn't do.

    Coming from South Africa we have Zuma and his hareem of 5 wives (although I haven't checked the news today, so it might be 6 or 7 by now), making it difficult to identify a "First Lady".

    All of his wives are involved with companies as directors, and I think that should definitely not be allowed, particularly when those companies are involved in government work.

    Despite having all these directorships the budget for the president's wives has more than doubled. I think that's also a bit of an abuse. If the first lady or ladies can afford to support themselves then they should.

    In summary I'd say that the First lady isn't the person who the people elected. They should have pursue their own lives like any other citizen, provided that they don't abuse their husband's position. They weren't elected, they should stay out of it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Im happy with the first ladies of africa because most them are focusing on the rural and poor areas of their countries unlike their western counterparts who like baby sitting their presidents. They should be incoulded on national budgets. Im impressed with 2 first ladies who spoken bbc network i cant wait to hear mrs. Museven

  • Comment number 7.

    From a Nigerian angle, this "post" should be scrapped. It has become an established conduit pipe to siphon off government funds to ghost projects. After all, there is no constitutional provision for this "post". Every Nigerian woman should be a first lady in her husbands house and kichen only !

  • Comment number 8.

    apart from going for extravagant shopping sprees they should be assigned special government issues like dealing with humanitarian concerns across the country. we rarely hear of first ladies speak or take initiatives. i would like to see them work alongside their husbands not just be ceremonial peacocks who come out brooding when there is state banquets.

  • Comment number 9.

    First Ladies are people that will help their husbands and the country in which they live. This is because they are the immediate advisers of their husbands. Their is important in such a way that they enhance development of a nation. They should be allowed to undertake developmental projects especially for rural communities. By so doing they will know the problems and needs of the rural poor. Thus helping their husband to get important information. Yes they should be given some powers to perform certain duties.

  • Comment number 10.

    A president is the father of a nation and this makes his wife the mother of that nation. So, let this mother treat the nation like she will treat her own household. They should prevent their husbands from been corrupt and greedy else there will be nothing left for the children and grand children. They should pressure their husands to retire from office and give way for younger children with fresh ideas to lead. They should remember that most African cultures measure the wealth and well-beings of parents on how well their children are doing. They should prevent their husbands from getting so unnecessarily rich when their children have no schools to attend, no jobs, no hospitals, no good roads and no utilities. They should not be unfit mothers to their children.

  • Comment number 11.

    First Lady’s onward contributed to her husband's as a President should be a historical reputation. It is a tribute to all First Ladies who have contributed massively for the success of the their husband, coming from different social and economic backgrounds, from many different geographical regions, and with diverse education preparation, each First Lady must strive to served their country so well

    All first Ladies must live in such a way that As we learn about them, we must begin to see that these women usually reflect the time in which they lived, so much so that a look at their lives becomes a panorama of women's history in in African and all over the world. First Ladies must also be able to Manage the social life at the whether White House or you call it unity palce as the case in Cameroon and the personal welfare of the President and their families, the First Ladies set a standard for the women of their day. In addition, they brought their own interests to the same wide audience
    Yuh Maurice martin - Tiko - Cameroon

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    like any other person,i think first ladies can be free to engage in any activity. however they should not engage in active politics, like holding political offices, just as the saying goes "politics is a dirty game" therefore first ladies should try as much as possible to remain neutral as far as politics is concerned, they can help in charity organisations, do other professional jobs rather than competting for political offices. they too are the immediate advisors to their husbands and can stand as go between in case of reconciltion because every husband who loves his wife will always listen to her no matter whether he is a president or a peasant in the villege, so first ladies should not show their political position publically as this may result to hatred from people who share different views with hers

  • Comment number 14.

    For a first lady to have the respect of fellow citizens, she should stand up to wrongdoings of her husband and discourage his addiction to power. She should be a role model in community development, respect to human rights, civil liberties and freedom of expression. Unfortunately we don’t have such first ladies in Africa. Most of them enjoy the life style the opportunity has availed to them and they prefer to remain first ladies for ever and hence they are not different from their husbands.

  • Comment number 15.

    The should be a good cooker.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think there is a need to include the functions of the first lady in the constitution.Most of our first ladies are closely tied with NGO's that are not accountable or don't exist at all. outlining their functions will create rooms for transparency in their dealing. However, the systems will only work if the first lady is academically inclined and had that leadership ability. It will be a difficult tasks for Africa, as most of our first ladies are undergraduate or never enter a school.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am worried that BBC should give such coverage to isuues like first ladies.What would giving publicity to those first ladies ever contribute in AFRICA if not glamour,pettiness and more CORRUPTION.I wonder if BBC decides to run such programme in EU countries whether it will succeed.

  • Comment number 18.

    First ladies must live like wives and not like assitant presidents. Giving these people roles to play will only mean money meant for development work go in wrong pockets through ghost projects and unaccomplished missions. I also look at these people as sources of ill-management of affairs in most African countries.

  • Comment number 19.

    The role of First lady should not be codified in the constitution, rather their role should be seen as nominal because they are not enfranchise .

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm really surpprised at the goof of the so called Kofi ellisson if he really exist.I doubt if he knows the first lady of ghana very well.His remarks are rather unfortunate. He rather takes advices from dogs as he thinks my first lady does.Im really proud of Mrs. Naadu Mills.Kofi you need to be wise.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm proud of the zambian first lady as well

  • Comment number 22.

    I would expect our First Lady in Uganda and others to convince their husbands such that they may protect rights of children, women , men, who normally suffer, it is the role of First ladies to uplift their fellow women. I think, first ladies do not need a Budget as they always have funds from state houses and their voice would even be enough because first ladies are closer to their husbands than any other person in a country, then what is required from them is to influence their husbands to make good policies for all.


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