By Byron Mutingwende
Many orphaned children, widows and families who remain in the margins of society in dire needs of the basic life provisions were given reasons to aspire for a brighter future through the launch of Angel of Hope Foundation that is being spearheaded by First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa.
The Foundation was launched at a colourful event at the prestigious Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on 17 February in the capital city.
In her introductory and welcome remarks, the First Lady’s Development Advisory Board Chairperson, Mrs Chipo Mtasa on the occasion of the launch of Hope Foundation bemoaned the fact that there were many children who were victims of sexual abuse and early marriages while many women were victims of gender based violence who have no sustainable livelihoods and live in extreme poverty.
“In the health space, we continue to face a difficult fight against a range of diseases that are haunting us, some threatening to wipe out generations. The lack of medical supplies and equipment and the state of infrastructure in our hospitals and clinics remain dire. The limited access to health facilities by many rural communities is a reality.
“Indeed, we see these hardships and many others everywhere. All this is overwhelming. It is with this reality that I am pleased with the gathering here today as we make an effort to highlight some of these ills and seek support and necessary partnerships to be able to do our part. As I say this, allow me ladies and gentleman to welcome you all to the launch event of the Angel of Hope Foundation,” Mrs Mutasa said.
Numerous dignitaries and guests graced the occasion. They included His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E. D. Mnangagwa, the First Lady and Patron of the Foundation, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa, the wife of Honourable Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Mrs Chiwenga, Government Ministers, representatives of churches and religious groups, the business community, development partners, civic organisations and the press just to mention a few.
Some of the dignitaries including President Mnangagwa, Prophetess Ruth Makandiwa and Family and some businessmen and politicians donated huge sums of money and goodies during the launch to get the foundation up and running with resources.
Speaking at the same occasion, President Mnangagwa hailed the First Lady for putting politics aside and concentrating on assisting the poor and vulnerable members in society. He also pledged government’s commitment towards supporting the foundation.
“During her visits to hospitals countrywide, the First Lady found it worthwhile to scrap user fees for senior citizens above 65 years of age and the elderly now receive free medication at government hospitals.
“She has also written a letter to me for the government to consider the lowering of chemotherapy sessions which costs $400 each. I will consult my cabinet and there is a high likelihood that her request might be considered. The lady also has a bus that has kits for cervical cancer screening for women and girls. The Lord rejoices in those who help others. The initiative is godly as witnessed by the high presence of church leaders,” President Mnangagwa said.
In his solidarity remarks, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church (UFIC) expressed gratitude and amazement at the small space of time that the First Lady assumed her newly acquired role but had come up with an initiative to empower the marginalised children. He rallied citizens to support the initiative with resources.
Reverend Paul Gwese, speaking on behalf of the Anglican Church described the launch as a day when children and women around Zimbabwe will connect to celebrate and remember for the present and future in many exciting ways.
“We know that children are a gift from God and as parents and guardians a lot is expected from us by creating an enabling environment for the full growth of every child born in Zimbabwe. Children’s Rights are everyone’s responsibility. Hence, we implore all national leaders and experts who speak about children’s issues today to support your vision as the Mother of our nation.
“On this day, we consider both the steps forward that have been taken towards better lives for women and children as well as assessing progress required to be made. Given the centrality of government to eradicate hunger and poverty, it is important to promote rights to food, shelter, clean water, affordable education, healthcare, equal opportunities for all, and putting an end to poverty among the children and women,” Reverend Gwese said.
He encouraged the church to push for a development-oriented partnership, where core development issues such as empowering rural women to end hunger and poverty should take precedence over other issues. In the same vein, he reiterated the need to continue to advance local smallholder agriculture with a special focus on rural farmers, particularly in rural areas where the vast majority of the children reside.
“An important lesson that we have learnt over the years is that for children and women to advance, democracy has to advance as well. But democracy requires more than an absence of discrimination. It needs governance. And good governance means sharing the power to make decisions – in politics, in economic and social life, in public administration and even in our homes. We are happy with the spirit of the new government in supporting women to participate more actively in economic, social and political life which is key to reducing poverty and increasing the well being of women and girls, their families and communities.”
According to the World Bank, investing in the education of girls may yield a higher rate of return than any other investment. Investing in girls’ education is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Knowledge Chikondo, the National Director of Zimbabwe SOS Children’s Villages appreciated the foundation for its focus on vulnerable children, especially those in alternative care (children’s homes).
“Orphaned children are the most disadvantaged and this foundation will be providing them terms of all their needs. This guarantee moves them to another level of hope. It allows a greater population of Zimbabwe to contribute to the care of orphans and vulnerable children beyond their immediate families,” Chikondo said.
Marah Hativagone, a trustee of Dzikwa Trust that caters for children in Dzivarasekwa said the launch of the foundation was a welcome development. She encouraged corporates to donate to the foundation since it advances the rights and welfare of orphans and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.