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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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First ladies of five African nations are talking to BBC World Service

BBC World Service's interactive radio programme for Africa, Network Africa, has been granted rare access to state houses in five African countries for exclusive interviews with the first ladies of Ghana, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia.

The BBC's Veronique Edwards travelled to the five countries to meet up and interview the first ladies. The exclusive interviews will be broadcast in a series of special programmes on Network Africa starting Monday 17 May.

The first ladies speak candidly about their role in their societies and their relationships with their husbands, giving a new and fascinating perspective into the men in power.

Joseph Warungu, the Editor of Network Africa and Focus on Africa programmes, says: "This is the first time that a radio programme has gone behind the scenes at the seat of power in five African nations to capture the views and lives of Africa's first families. The interviews are part of our continuing drive to expand the agenda and bring fresh voices and perspectives on African politics and social affairs.

"The exclusive interviews with first ladies come straight after another highly popular special business series on Network Africa which featured successful African entrepreneurs from around the continent, and got them to share their tips and advice with young aspiring entrepreneurs."

Sierra Leone (broadcast on Monday 17 May)

Although her husband is only in the middle of his first term in office, Sia Koroma is clear about the need for an exit plan from power: "There's a golden rule in politics. You must know when to come in and when to get out. That is my motto and I'm going to stand by it. That exit is very important."

Namibia (broadcast on Tuesday 18 May)

The Namibian First Lady, Penehupifo Pohamba, says she misses her freedom: "I can't dance anymore... this house is like a prison... You're not really free, not like how I was in the old days. I could go to the disco, and then return to my house and start dancing again and doing this and that. That is no more."

Ghana (broadcast on Wednesday 19 May)

In her interview, the Ghanaian First Lady, Ernestina Naadu Mills, says that despite the trappings of power she always tries to keep her feet on the ground: "It's not that you're the first first lady. Actually, that does not go to my head. I know I'm still an ordinary person and what that means is more responsibility, living an exemplary life."

Zambia (broadcast on Thursday 20 May)

The Zambian First Lady, Thandiwe Banda, says she is conscious of acting as a role model: "I used to wear normal clothes that a mother with two kids would wear. You know, easy clothes like jeans and a T-shirt. Now there are some clothes that I can't wear because everyone – especially young people – look up to me; I need to set a good example."

Uganda (broadcast on Friday 21 May)

In her interview, Janet Museveni, who is also an MP and cabinet minister in her husband's government, responds to accusations that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is running the country like a family business: "I know that that is rubbish, I'm sorry to say this. If there is anyone who takes the trouble to do everything by the law, it is my husband."

She also confirms that, after completing a second and final five-year term as an MP following next year's general elections, she will then retire from active politics.

The interviews will be broadcast on Network Africa at 03.30, 04.30, 05.30, 06.30 and 07.30 GMT.

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