Zimbabwe: First Lady’s India Visit a Game-Changer

LIKE a bird using its feet simultaneously to scrounge debris to find seeds, bugs or other food for her nest, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa had a tightly packed schedule in India where she met leaders of various charity organisations, investors and individuals keen to work with her Angel of Hope Foundation to transform the lives of her people back home.

Never one person to let fatigue get the best of her, she was at her usual best sharing notes with those who paid her a visit and showing eagerness to partner her Angel of Hope Foundation.

The meetings and memoranda of understanding she signed in the health sector, education, environment, tourism and agriculture all, but cemented the great work she is doing back home to ease the plight of the less privileged.

The mother of the nation, who is the country’s health ambassador is involved in cancer screening, treatment of non-communicable diseases, Covid-19 awareness and ensuring that the country’s citizenry — including those in the hinterland have access to improved healthcare and treatment.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to India Dr Godfrey Majoni Chipare said the fact that some would-be investors flew from Britain and America to meet the First Lady spoke volumes about her brand.

He said the fact that Indian firms were willing to invest in Zimbabwe, meant: “More jobs, more opportunities and it suggests that we are pursuing sound policies. India is one of the fourth largest economies in the world and if India takes the lead it bodes well for us.

“These are American and British prominent persons with Indian antecedence. It speaks to two issues that Angel of Hope Foundation has captured the imagination of people beyond the borders of Zimbabwe. It also shows that there is room for cooperation with their nations. It speaks to the success of our engagement and re-engagement policy. We live in a world of multi-tech diplomacy where State actors and non-State actors contribute to foreign policy and Angel of Hope Foundation has done a good job in that direction.”

Dr Mnangagwa had fruitful discussions with organisations like MySenior Doctor, which was represented at the highest level by its director Mrs Hema Agnihotri who expressed desire to link Zimbabwean patients with super specialist doctors from her country and enhance the quality of healthcare in Zimbabwe.

Mrs Agnihotri told the First Lady that she worked with more than 1 000 doctors in India and said she was willing to assist the First Lady in cancer screening and other ailments.

To show seriousness in handling health matters, Dr Mnangagwa had in her entourage Dr Stephen Banda, the chief director of policy planning, health, informatics and monitoring and evaluation in the Ministry of Health and Child Care to provide expert advice. Dr Banda said the Indian sojourn with Dr Mnangagwa was fruitful as it managed to open avenues for the health ministry.

“The First Lady’s Indian trip managed to source support that will go a long way in improving reproductive, maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health in Zimbabwe, especially in the remote and outlying areas, where access to medical health services have a bit of a challenge.

“The Angel of Hope Foundation, through Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa who is also the country’s health ambassador managed to source medicines for a number of conditions, cervical cancer screening machines, sanitary hygiene materials and human resources for health support, where the Angel of Hope Foundation will have specialised 0professionals from Indian organisations coming to Zimbabwe to do various specialised procedures,” he said.

The visit also managed to have partners who are interested in supporting the improvement of nutrition status of the community and promoting health awareness and wellness programmes.

The First Lady expressed gratitude to the Indian community for supporting Zimbabwe and walking with her towards addressing common to complex health issues that face the community in the remote parts of the society.

Dr Banda said the Mother of the nation assured the Indian partners that their new relations will help mainly the underprivileged in the country’s outlying communities.

“The First Lady assured the Indian partners that building new partnerships with Angel of Hope in the health service delivery are key to the success of improving the health of the disadvantaged people of our society.

“The leadership of the Indian organisations reaffirmed their full commitment to work with the Angel of Hope Foundation and assist it in fulfilling its vision of touching lives by providing services ensuring that communities are assisted to have their health issues addressed as she also moves with her foundation’s mobile clinic,” said Dr Banda.

Dr Mnangagwa also appreciated the role of the private sector in rebuilding the healthcare sector and rebuilding the economy at large. For that reason, she commended the Zimbabwe India Council Association’s efforts in complementing the Angel of Hope Foundation in its efforts to provide accessible quality healthcare services to the vulnerable people of Zimbabwe.

Back home, the First Lady has been touring various communities with her foundation’s mobile bus screening people for breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer and she will certainly achieve much more with assistance from partners in India

The discussions and meetings the First Lady held showed just how great things can be achieved through sharing of challenges and ideas.

Already, a United States organisation has promised to assist in the provision of dialysis machines for renal patients in Zimbabwe reinforcing the First Lady’s refrain that health matters were close to her heart.

Dr Vijay G Prabhakar from the United States, travelled from Chicago to find how best he could partner Angel of Hope Foundation to ease the plight of the vulnerable.

Dr Prabhakar is global ambassador of Reverend Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition (USA), national chairman of American Association of Multi Ethnic Physicians (USA), president of the Indian American Business Coalition, Inc, (USA), founder chairman of US Congressman Danny K Davis’ MEATF, and chairman of the Global Eye, a digital monthly magazine and TV.

He underscored the need to create synergies between Zimbabwe and the United States.

“We have a New York-based associate who will be able to donate dialysis machines for kidney patients in Zimbabwe. We have noted that the First Lady, Dr Mnangagwa has a passion for the welfare of every citizen in her country and also access to healthcare for all is her priority as the ambassador of health and child care. We would like to come to Harare with our partners, we will bring a delegation to meet the First Lady so that we fulfil our pledge and find other areas where we can work with her foundation,” he said.

British parliamentarian, Lord Diljit Rana Obe, who has an extensive business empire and charity organisations in UK and India, is also keen on partnering First Lady Dr Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation to empower the needy through scholarships.

Lord Rana told the First Lady that his organisations, the Lord Rana Foundation and Cordia Education Campus were ready to support students from Zimbabwe through scholarships.

“We would like to invite students from Zimbabwe through your Angel of Hope Foundation for studies, that is, from high school to tertiary and also for international cultural exchange programmes,” he said.

Lord Rana said he felt honoured to meet the First Lady.

The First Lady has a passion for the education of the country’s citizenry as she, through a partnership between her Angel of Hope Foundation and Zimbabwe Open University, is offering all citizens including widows, orphans, former ladies of the night, the elderly and the disabled an opportunity to learn and acquire life-changing skills free of charge.

She has also organised scholarships for poor, but academically gifted students to further their education in countries like China and Russia.

The mother of the nation, through her foundation, runs a feeding scheme for children in deprived communities to ensure they do not drop out of school.

She mobilises resources to pay fees for the poor and provide them with stationery, furniture and personally sews uniforms for them so that they pursue their education.

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she took children who were living and working on the streets of major cities and towns and committed them to Chambuta Children’s Home in Chiredzi where they are pursuing studies, sports and being equipped with vocational training skills.

During her travels across the length and breadth of the country, she has always been encouraging children to stay away from drugs and focus on their education so they can have a bright future.

Rarely does an individual commit time and resources to lightening other people’s burdens, the way the First Lady does.

The First Lady has been working with widows, orphans, ladies of the night, youths, the elderly and those living with disabilities among many other groups whom she equipped with skills in detergent-making to earn a decent living and in India, she connected with a group keen on improving livelihoods through skills transfer.

As environmental patron, her trip to India has helped her link with firms like EKI Energy Services Limited owned by Mr Robit Kumar who seeks to distribute environmentally-friendly stoves to rural communities through her foundation.

Mr Kumar said the firm sought to rehabilitate the earth to a low carbon and climate-resilient global economy given that globally 2,6 billion people lacked access to clean fuels and fumes of polluted fuels in cooking killed more people than malaria.

“Zimbabwe was losing about 330 000 hectares of forest per annum. At that rate Zimbabwe could lose all its forests within 52 years. Indoor air pollution causes an estimated 3 800 premature deaths every year and air pollution from indoor sources is the single largest contributor to the negative health effects,” read a brochure accompanying the stove.

He said his stoves required less wood, were smokeless and free of costs to users.

Back home, the First Lady is working closely with the Forestry Commission and other stakeholders to plant trees and advocate the preservation of forests which are a source of fruits, medicine and a natural habitat for various animal species.

She has also visited many communities encouraging them to plant fruit trees to earn income, curb erosion and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Dr Mnangagwa had the privilege to meet Mrs Geeta Solanki, the founder of Unipads India Private Limited, who expressed interest in working with the Angel of Hope Foundation to improve menstrual hygiene.

Mrs Solanki donated reusable sanitary kits to Angel of Hope Foundation for onward distribution to the needy.

“We manufacture reusable sanitary pads to eradicate poverty in India and other neighbouring states and countries. I am really lucky to meet you Amai and give you these sanitary kits for the underprivileged women and girls in your country,” she said.

So cordial was the meeting that Dr Mnangagwa, who is running a thriving reusable sanitary pad sewing initiative in communities and schools around the country, was glad to share her experiences and views with Mrs Solanki.

She described reusable pads as a worthwhile initiative that would ease the plight of women in disadvantaged communities.

Still on menstrual hygiene, Dr Harjinder Kaur Talwar of India paid tribute to the First Lady for her women empowerment initiatives and donated 10 000 disposable sanitary pads, saying she had deep concern for menstrual hygiene the same way Dr Mnangagwa did.

It is in light of what the First Lady has accomplished in less than a week that everyone can appreciate the importance of her visit to India.

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