By Victoria Ruzvidzo
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has described her engagements in China during the five-day State Visit to that country as fruitful and quite progressive.
She accompanied President Mnangagwa on the State visit at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The delegation returned home at the weekend. The First Lady had a full programme that ran parallel to the President’s.
In an interview yesterday, the First Lady said she took the opportunity to advance her work and to draw lessons from China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan on how she could best serve this country.
The two held meetings where they discussed the plight of women and vulnerable children, emphasising on orphans and those infected and affected by HIV and Aids, among other issues.
Madame Peng is an ambassador for HIV and Aids.
“I can confidently say it was mission accomplished for me. China is a very big country with a large population so my desire was to learn from the work that Madame Peng was doing so that I could draw lessons from her. She is experienced and has a big portfolio, but she opened up to me, we were like sisters. To my surprise she said she was following the work I was doing here and she encouraged me to continue working hard. We shared notes on the functions of a first lady and I must say I learnt a lot from her,” she said.
“A major point we spoke and agreed on was that the work of the First Lady is non-partisan. A First Lady is a mother to everyone,” she said.
China has a deliberate women policy to ensure women’s economic empowerment through the provision of subsidised loans to women. Through this, women only repay the principal loan while the State assumes repayment of the interest obligation.
More than 60 million women have benefited from this initiative.
“It is unfortunate that in this country we do not have enough resources presently, but my desire is to ensure that women, including those in rural areas are empowered,” she said.
On health issues, the First Lady was briefed on China’s cervical and breast cancer screening programme which has seen about 90 million women being screened. The country is targeting to screen a further 60 million women by 2020.
The First Lady is running a countrywide campaign on cervical awareness and screening.
She said child marriages were not a challenge in China.
“China has no child marriage problems because all the girls get married at the appropriate time, but here in Zimbabwe that problem is rife. We spoke about it at length and I implore traditional leaders, their wives, churches and all community leaders to help in the fight against child marriages.”
She said such marriages deprived Zimbabwe of tomorrow’s leaders because a girl in such a set up would either stop going to school completely or would slacken in her studies.
She also had meetings with the All China Women’s Federation where she was briefed on the outcome of the 19th National People’s Congress and on the re-election of President Xi. They discussed the plight of women, children and the vulnerable. The women’s federation shared experiences with regard to their advocacy activities on the status of women, gender equality and gender mainstreaming into all spheres of life.
Zimbabwe drew lessons from the inclusion of rural women into the working committees within their communities.
The First Lady also visited the Shijitan Cancer Hospital in Beijin, one of the oldest and largest hospitals in China.
She highlighted that cancer was now a worse scourge than HIV and Aids and that Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from China on how they are managing the killer disease.
She was briefed on the different ways the hospital treats its patients using western medicine, Chinese traditional methods and the acupuncture treatment. She welcomed the idea of sending local health personnel to receive acupuncture skills training in China.
The First Lady has been invited to attend a conference of first ladies to discuss the treatment and care of children affected by HIV and Aids. It will be held on the sidelines of FOCAC meetings scheduled for Beijing in September. “I will be going there in September and its such an honour. In the meantime I have to work hard. My desire is to serve my country well,” she said.