Ethiopian first lady arrives in Lusaka today

Ethiopia’s First Lady Azeb Mesfi is expect to arrive in Lusaka today at 14 hours.

Mesfin behind her husband

Mesfin behind her husband

Mesfi is president of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).

She took  over from Mrs Maureen Mwanawasa, wife of the late former Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa.

Other first ladies from the region are already in the country for the meeting.

According to Wikipedia,  Mesfin is an Ethiopian women’s right activist, businesswoman, member of parliament, and political spouse. She is also the  President of Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) and founder and patron of Ethiopia’s National Initiative for Mental Health.[1]

Azeb is the wife of Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi and the mother of three children, Semhal, Marda and Senay Meles. She was elected in 2005 to the House of Peoples Representatives (the lower House of the Ethiopian Parliament) representing her home district Wolkait, and serves as chair of its Social Affairs Standing Committee. She has also been deeply involved in bringing nationwide HIV awareness and advocating for more education. Prior to entering the legislature, she was active as Ethiopia’s de facto first lady in a range of public activities, including the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

Her role has at times been controversial, with some members of Ethiopia’s diaspora alleging that, during the period in which she was an executive at the parastatal Mega Corporation, she was involved in “the impropriety of mingling public, private and party-owned businesses.”[2] However she is also known for her aggressive work to teach rural Ethiopians about the issues of HIV and advocating for more women’s rights. In January 2007, she was given the “Legacy of a Dream” award for her leadership and during an awards ceremony commemorating the life of the famous civil rights activist and leader Dr. Martin Luther King. [3]

Her appearance at a special ceremony to honor the First Ladies of Africa for their efforts against the spread of HIV/AIDS held by Georgetown University of Washington DC on January 15, 2007 was met by protests of exiled Ethiopians. .”[4] The University was awarding it’s “John Thompson Legacy of a Dream Award” to the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS for its leadership and service toward the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Azeb Mesfin was to accept the award on behalf of the organization along with the first ladies of Zambia and Rwanda. She started the organization “Ethiopian Coalition of Women against HIV/AIDS” and continues to work closely with community leaders to ensure the rights of women,fight harmful traditional practices and HIV/AIDS. [5] She said the award she received is not just for her organization but for the entire Ethiopian women declaring “the award is the result of the relentless struggle waged by Ethiopian women.”[6]

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