First ladies the world over are famous for many things and at the moment among the most recognizable faces is Michelle Obama the wife to the President of the United States.An Ivy League educated lawyer Michelle has carved a niche for herself in the public eye and among the things she is famous for are her sense of style and the campaign she has taken on to combat obesity in children through her lets move initiative.
Kenya has only had two first ladies,Mama Ngina Kenyatta and the present day Lucy Kibaki.It seems that the wives of our Presidents hardly ever take an active role in anything though we have heard of Ms Lucy Kibaki being involved in the HIV/AIDS initiative through her role as chair of the Organization of the 40 African First Ladies Against HIV/Aids.
When the coalition government came into power,someone saw it wise to provide allowances for the first lady,the vice presidents wife and the Prime Ministers spouse for the supposedly state responsibilities they had taken up.There were even offices leased out for these ladies which have never been used.
As we elect a new government next year it is time Kenyans rethought the role of the first lady in the coming years because things are changing and the role of the Presidents wife will go beyond sitting pretty in State house and smiling as she ushers in guests.While ideally the chief role of the first lady is to be hostess during social functions it is time the Kenyan first lady took up roles that while politically neutral are those that highlight the plight of children,women or the people society has forgotten.But what do we see in Kenyan politics,first ladies prefer to be wall flowers during the time their husbands are in power,some even assume they are government and we have had of squabbles between these ladies and government ministers at official functions outside the country.
For the past eight years we have seen statements being issued on a myriad of issues from the office of the first lady,most have been on the definition of what constitutes the first family to lash backs at coalition partners on the gossip our ministers share with expatriates.Occasionally we have seen the media frenzy that has ensued when the first lady goes shopping .All this because most of the time she seems to be living in an ivory tower up on the hill far removed from the lives of ordinary wananchi.
I have some ideas for the next first lady that should keep her busy for the period that her husband is in office.First on my list is Brand Kenya which could do with an ambassador to assist in marketing the country to its citizenry and the world at large.Having the first lady on board would not only give it the necessary PR mileage but would give a face to this state body that Kenyans hear about but hardly know what it does.The Kenyan fashion scene is a becoming so vibrant and our designers are doing shows the world over and seeing the Presidents wife in some Kenyan creations during state functions would be a great boost to the industry.We cannot also forget the sorry state of maternal care in Kenya where mothers are losing lives every day,having someone champion these cause might save a few lives and reduce the negligence in the health care system.
There is a lot the first lady can do if she so wishes and hopefully the next one will be up to the challenge.