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Cherie joins current and former first ladies at RAND Forum

Cherie joins current and former first ladies at RAND Forum

(Diane Bondareff/AP Images for RAND Corporation)

Cherie joins current and former first ladies at RAND Forum

(Diane Bondareff/AP Images for RAND Corporation)

Cherie joins current and former first ladies at RAND Forum

(Diane Bondareff/AP Images for RAND Corporation)

Current and former first ladies gather at RAND Forum in New York to expand leadership on women's issues.

Earlier this week Cherie joined former US first lady Laura Bush and ten current and former African first ladies in New York at a Pardee RAND Graduate School organised forum focused on becoming more effective leaders.

They met with peers in a private discussion, covering the opportunities and challenges of their individual roles. The aim of these conversations was to help first ladies become champions of change in their home countries on issues such as women's health, girls' education and women's economic empowerment.

Penehupifo Pohamba, first lady of Namibia and chair of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against AIDS said: "Today's discussions were indeed very useful. I am convinced that as role models, change-makers and leaders in our respective countries, we are increasingly realising our potential and must now take specific steps alongside our development partners to improve our existing projects and programs to positively change the lives of our people."

The gathering, held at the Ford Foundation in New York, was part of the RAND African First Ladies Initiative, co-led by Cora Neumann, Gery Ryan and Anita McBride, former chief of staff to Mrs Bush.

"Active and engaged first ladies have the opportunity to provide vital leadership on vexing health and education issues - important problems that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people," said Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School (PRGS).

Along with Mrs Pohamba, first ladies participating included Salma Kikwete of Tanzania, Traore Mintou Doucoure of Mali, Antoinette Sassou N'Guesso of the Republic of Congo, Hadidja Ikililou of Comoros, Dr Christine Kaseba Sata of Zambia, Chantal Boni Yayi of Benin, Jeannette Kagame of Rwanda, and Chantal Campaoré of Burkina Faso, as well as the former first lady of Malawi, Callista Mutharika, and the wife of the Vice President of Nigeria, Hajiya Amina Namadi Sambo.

Sponsors and partners of the RAND African First Ladies Initiative include Merck & Co., General Electric, ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women, the George W. Bush Institute, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the American Cancer Society and the Ford Foundation.