Botswana First Lady praises ‘university in three days’ learning experience in Zim

25 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Botswana First Lady praises ‘university in three days’ learning experience in Zim United by their two mothers… First Ladies Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Mrs Neo Jane Masisi had to admire as Ms Phatsimo Matshediso and Ms Ivy Musariri hug each other having been trading virtually in skin care products, only to see each other at Zimbabwe House on Thursday

The Sunday News

Tendai Rupapa, Senior Reporter

Unforgettable, educative and inspiring.

These three words aptly capture the experience of Botswana First Lady Mrs Neo Jane Masisi on her maiden three-day working visit to Zimbabwe with a high-powered delegation, which also included scientists, agriculture experts and women from underprivileged communities.

“I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn from the best. The trip has come to an end and, I must say, I have been to university in just three days, learning from one of the very best and I must really thank you, my dear sister, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa,” Mrs Masisi said.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Botswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi admire as Ms Priscilla Mupanga teaches Botswana women how to prepare peanut butter at Zimbabwe House on Thursday

The visit, Mrs Masisi admitted, was an eye-opener and would remain etched in her mind with countless tangible lessons to pick from. Even her delegation was spellbound and promised to come back to Zimbabwe to learn more.

Of particular interest were Dr Mnangagwa’s life-transforming Agric4She programme, women empowerment, partnership with the University of Zimbabwe innovation hub and interventions in the health sector.

Incidentally, Mrs Masisi has just been made a cervical cancer screening champion in Botswana and showed keen interest in tapping into Dr Mnangagwa’s mobile hospital concept to get to all corners of the country, including hard-to-reach areas.

“Let me start by thanking our very gracious host, my sister, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, Her Excellency, the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe. I will say it again that throughout these few days, history was made, and I was so touched as we finished it off. What an excellent way of finishing off!” she said merrily. 

“The trip started off with me landing at the airport, which is normal, then we had a dinner, then we had a walkabout, but for me, my dear sister, the most fascinating thing is when I saw the women I came with from rural communities in Botswana, from Mabole, being trained by an Angel of Hope beneficiary, who is into peanut butter-making on a large scale. She took her sisters through all the processes, thanks to you Amai, they have learnt a lot which they will take back to their peers. We, as the two mothers standing side by side, what else can you ask for? Where you see woman-to-woman empowerment literally without a middleman. Without that man in a pink shirt, as they say. How beautiful it is when you see two mothers, and not ordinary mothers, two powerful mothers from two powerful nations also standing side by side sharing notes and experiences! I want to say this is exactly what we came for. Yes, our quest was about value addition, it was about baobab products, it was about farming, it was about poultry, but our visit extended beyond that.”

First Ladies Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Mrs Neo Jane Masisi have an emotional farewell and shed tears as they exchange gifts at Zimbabwe House on Thursday

The Batswana First Lady praised the involvement of academics in finding solutions to challenges affecting the people, taking a leaf from her host, Dr Mnangagwa.

“We saw agriculture and food security where women are at the forefront. We saw the University of Zimbabwe innovation hub, where it was said to us academics, go out there with your wonderful formulas and actually add to our development agenda. We were speaking the same language. You can have your formulas in the back, but at the forefront, let us see these solutions coming through for our people and serving them. Why did I come just after the bi-nationals? Why did I come when there is a trade expo going on? It is because the Lord was in command to guide us as we take our nations to heights. God knew about this day. We saw, of course, the Angel of Hope Foundation programmes, the very good work that you are doing, Amai. We saw the mobile clinic and the world-class hospital, something that has just blown my mind. 

First Ladies Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Mrs Neo Jane Masisi exchange gifts at Zimbabwe House on Thursday

“You know a child who sees a toy at a friend’s place and insists that the parents should buy him the same toy. This is exactly how I feel. I am going back and I will look around. Fortunately, in the modern world, I have pictures that will tell the story. We have the videos that will tell the story; but just world-class stuff. It has blown me away and again, as luck would have it, right now our Ministry of Health has appointed me as champion for the cervical cancer campaign. Right there I saw another solution. In all these visits, all I need is just to open my eyes and see solutions. I hope that is how the delegation felt,” she said.

“We then saw the old women doing projects in urban and rural areas. We saw a case study in Gogo Mberi’s story in Waterfalls. Somebody who has only gone as far as Standard Six but lives by the saying that even a broken crayon can colour, a saying that she got from the mother of the nation of Zimbabwe. Amai, we also carry back the grace and wisdom that a crayon can still colour although broken. At her house, we saw chickens and other gardening projects. We salute your programmes, Amai. At the Liberation Museum, what do I say? Bringing Africa together, saying Africa is borderless, saying our history is similar, saying we built our history together. The heritage shows us where we come from, let us teach our children. We are educating them in the cities in good schools, but it is their heritage that made us who we are. We learnt a lot in Zimbabwe, which we are taking back to Botswana,” Mrs Masisi added. 

The director of Food Science and Technology at the Agricultural, Research and Development Institute in Botswana, Dr Minah Mmoni Mosele, echoed similar sentiments, hinting at the prospects of collaboration with institutions in Zimbabwe.

“We are from the Agriculture Research and Development Institute, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, and we believe that as the national agricultural institute of Botswana, we could return this visit on our own to come and learn from your departments of agriculture. When I was going through the tour, I saw where it is written Department of Crop Science and we are keen to learn as to how you do your work. 

“We are on the road to release some of the seeds that we have been breeding over the years, but I believe we can always learn more as to how these can actually adapt to climate change. As a country, we are currently still experiencing a cry from the farmers. They are saying you are selling us these supposedly adapted crops but we still don’t get as much yield as we desire to actually get. So, I believe that I will talk to my superiors about the need for us to come back and learn from our counterparts at the University of Zimbabwe because I believe there is a lot that we can learn from each other. Amai, you made this possible,” she said.

First Ladies Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Mrs Neo Jane Masisi listen as University of Zimbabwe Dean of students Dr Munyaradzi Madambi explains before handing over to Mrs Masisi, the various types of confectionery products which were produced from traditional grains such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins among other grains by students at their innovation hub Zimbabwe House on Thursday

Dr Mosele said her heart was touched by the women of Marondera rural and thought her home country could benefit if it replicates Dr Mnangagwa’s Agric4She model. 

“I was so touched by the way the women of Marondera were delivering beautiful products that I believe we can also learn from. They had beautiful products. I believe if we partner with innovation hubs to extend more training to the women, the beautiful work that they are doing there won’t go to waste,” she said. 

Another member of the delegation said her imagination had been captured by the Agric4She model.

“We want to look at how the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture and the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture can partner through our mother, Dr Mnangagwa, for the Agric4She cropping model. We really want the model; we want to replicate it. The programme is incredible. There could be a possibility of a mini Agric4She exchange programme in Botswana, where women from Botswana and Zimbabwe come to showcase and exchange knowledge, culture and innovation. That’s what we got out of that particular programme,” she said.

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) dean of students Dr Munyaradzi Madambi said the institution felt honoured by the visit and praised Dr Mnangagwa’s tireless efforts to empower learners from humble backgrounds.

“On behalf of the UZ, it was indeed an honour and privilege to receive you and your guests from Botswana, Amai. It is a first to have a First Lady from another country to our university. We do not take that for granted. It is also the first time to have a mother who has a keen interest in academia, and not just academia, but academia that focuses mainly on the underprivileged,” he said.

“I must confirm that I was just following the proceedings and want to say our mothers have something of a similar DNA. When I saw the two ladies that you were talking about from a rural background in Botswana, here Mama is not for the elite, for the top class or the royalty, but when she comes into our institutions, its mostly for the underprivileged. 

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Botswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi admire as Ms Priscilla Mupanga hands over to Botswana women the peanut butter she taught them to prepare at Zimbabwe House on Thursday. — Pictures by John Manzongo

“Most of the students whom she travels with are students who would have come to Harare specifically for school. They have never been to the city, they have never jumped on an aeroplane, they have never crossed the border, but Amai embraces them. So, we are very excited, we are very happy. I was just listening carefully, following the proceedings, the areas of collaboration with our tertiary institutions; there are many of them. The door is open. I am happy Mama to report that we have been working with the Botswana ambassador to Zimbabwe. There are programmes that we have been pushing in the area of health. This visit also opens amazing opportunities for us and we are very grateful. I am sure this is something that we can pursue in the context of the conversations that we were having and, as usual, we have plenty universities. We are loved all by our First Lady.”

Amai Mnangagwa took everything in her stride and thanked the Batswana delegation for the visit. Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, Dr Mnangagwa donated peanut butter-making machines to her counterpart for the empowerment of less-privileged women in her country to start projects.

A beneficiary of Dr Mnangagwa’s empowerment programme taught the Batswana women how to make peanut butter using an electric machine and a hand-controlled machine. They grasped the concept and will teach other women in their communities back home.

“We do not want to have anyone, any place or any country lagging behind in terms of women empowerment. The things that we know, we can always share my dear sister, Mrs Masisi. We are going to work together going forward. There is a need for exchange programmes. What we are working for are our nations, the women and the girl child and the boy child as well. Look at the problems that we are facing today of social ills as nations, they are similar, especially drug abuse, and this requires us to put our heads together. All that it needs is for us as mothers to pray, teach and to be there for our children,” Dr Mnangagwa said.

It was a bitter-sweet farewell for the First Ladies, who fought back tears while hugging and bidding farewell to one another. They also exchanged gifts.

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