Graça Machel: the First Lady – and Much More


Liubov Prokopenko


The vast and diverse gallery of portraits of the First Ladies of African countries contains many bright personalities. Many of them remained socially active even after their spouses’ death or retirement. One of such positive examples is Mrs. Graça Machel, a well-known politician and stateswoman of Mozambique, the only woman in modern history who was the First Lady of two countries – Mozambique (1975–1986) and South Africa (1998–1999).

A participant in the struggle for the independence of Mozambique and the first woman-minister after the proclamation of its independence, she became its First Lady but continued to work in the government, contributing to the development of the education system. After her husband’s tragic death Mrs. G. Machel continued her social activities and became a recognized activist in the struggle for the rights of women and children. She did not remain in the shadow of her second husband Mr. Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa.

This African lady is an active advocate for gender equality. Her many years of active social work acknowledged with many international awards have given an additional impetus to the development of the activity of African women in their struggle for gender equality in all spheres of public and political life.


Mozambique, struggle for independence, minister, First Lady, public figure, mother, South Africa, N. Mandela, UN SDGs, gender equality




1. Austin M. Winnie Mandela was like a sister to her former husband Nelson’s new wife as he lay dying. (accessed 18.02.2023)
2. Baker A. Graça Machel: Women’s Rights Will Determine Africa’s Future. graca-machel-impact-award (accessed 18.02.2023)
3. Cropley E. Winnie Mandela, tarnished “Mother” of post-apartheid South Africa. article/us-safrica-winniemandela-idUSKCN1H91A6 (accessed 18.02.2023)
4. Dignity of Women biography: Graça Machel. (accessed 17.02.2023)
5. Dignity of Women biography: Josina Z Machel. (accessed 18.02.2023)
6. Filatova I.I. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (In Russ.). History of Africa in biographies. (Ed. by A.Davidson). Moscow. 2012, pp. 192–207. ISBN 978-5-7281-1358-4.