I have been looking at some of the accusations leveled against our First ladies regarding their participation in public life of this country.Some people feel that First Ladies should not engage in political activities alongside their husbands.Yet some feel that our first ladies have not been doing enough.In short I came to realise that perhaps the problem lies with lack of understanding of what the First Ladies institution is all about to make it possible to assess performance. Historically, in Africa, a First Ladys face was rarely seen in public, except on state occasions. Of late however the First Lady phenomenon has opened doors for women that had previously been closed. There are arguments that this turn of events has created a dynamic in which political space has been appropriated and used by the wives and friends of men in power for purposes of personal aggrandisement rather than for furthering the interests of the society. Criticisms have been leved against First Ladies NGOs that have been created as a wa to deliver different services to communities.Unfortunately no one has really come out to give the genesis of why and how such institutions or NGOs run by the first ladies have come into existence and for what purpose such that a conclusion can be made. It must be noted from the outset that the office Of First Lady is extra-constitutional in most countries if not all. First Ladies title can only be attained through marriage or in the cases of bachelor or widowed presidents or those whose wives are unable to fill the position, a special invitation to serve as State hostess as was the case with Cecilia Kadzamira during Bandas tenure in Malawi. For a long time, actions of the First Ladies were carried out through the office of the husband, the President. The new trend, however, is to augment the power of the First Lady through the creation of specific state and non-state structures that provide her with independent instruments. On the international scene, First Lady institution is a relatively new political phenomenon which can be traced to the 1992 World Summit for the Economic Advancement of Rural Women, hosted in Geneva at the initiative of six First Ladies, three of whom - Maryam Babangida, Elizabeth Diouf and Suzanne Mubarak - were African (Mama Siti Mwinyi of Tanzania attended this summit). For the first time, wives of heads of states sought to play an autonomous and co-ordinated role in international politics in their capacities as spouses of leaders. It was at the 1995 Beijing Conference, however, that the First Lady Syndrome however attracted major international attention, when a large group of First Ladies met in the context of a major world event and took centre stage. Hilary Rodham Clinton, wife of the then US President played a leading role. In Africa, the first Summit, for First Ladies was hosted at Yaounde in Cameroon by President Paul Biya's wife, Chantal Biya, during the 1996 OAU Summit. The wives of the heads of the following states attended it: Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Mama Anna Mkapa attended this meeting. The communique of the meeting, which focused on strategies to improve the lives of rural women, was incorporated into the official communique of the OAU meeting. Lets take a look at what some First Ladies in Africa have done during their husbands tenure as presidents so that we may look at what is happening here in Tanzania and judge whether we are off track or not: NigerIn the 1960s, Aisha Hamani Diouri, the wife of the President of Niger, was reputed to be even more powerful than her spouse, whom she was alleged to have controlled like a marionette. Her legendary powers in manipulating the country's elite and dictating the pace and content of cultural and social trends are recorded in the songs and poetry of the country. During a coup in 1966, they spared the life of President Hamani Diouri, but assassinated his wife, whom they considered the personification of illegitimate power. Yet Aisha Diouri never had any autonomous space or structure through which she exercised power. Ghana:During her husband's rule, the wife of the former Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings - Nana Agyeman-Rawlings had no official position in government, but nevertheless played a major role in formulating and even implementing policies relating to women, successfully creating a powerful and autonomous space for herself within the country's politics. Nana Rawlings therefore set up her own machinery, the 31 December Women's Movement (DWM) as her main organisational structure. Named after her husband's second ascension to power in 1981 the DWM was a huge organisation, with about 30 affiliate organisations and it claimed a rural membership of over two million. Much of its work has involved mobilising women around small-scale, village-level economic projects, financed by external grants. It seems that the DWM was converted to an NGO so that it could benefit from grants distributed by international funding agencies. In spite of this reconfiguration, some of its staff members remained on the government payroll. The organisation was also represented in the District Assemblies, the structure for local governance in Ghana. Nana Rawlings' influence grew to such an extent that there were strong suspicions that arrangements were being made for her to succeed her husband as President. The significance of Nana Rawlings was that she heralded the phenomenon of the First Lady who demanded an important role for women in society. She was able to appropriate current and pressing concerns in the international development community about the necessity of focusing on rural and poor women. She virtually re-invented rural women as a constituency that all public officials in Ghana are now obliged to pretend to acknowledge. She also demonstrated that there was considerable money and influence to be gained in making claims to represent the women's movement NigeriaGhana may have been the first African country to give institutional prominence to the First Lady, but it is in Nigeria that the phenomenon has flourished. Given the long period of military rule in Nigeria, it is not surprising that women played only a marginal role in Nigeria's public life for decades. The public profile of elite women changed dramatically with the coming into power of First Lady Chief-Dr-Mrs Maryam Babangida, wife of General Babangida in the early 1980s. When her husband became President, she opened an office for herself within the Presidency. She was the first wife of a Nigerian head of state to use her spousal position as a basis for playing a prominent role in the nation's public life. In 1987, five years after Nana Rawlings had established her organisation in Ghana, Mrs Babangida launched the Better Life for Rural Women Programme (BLP). The wives of all senior state officials were systematically incorporated into this organisation. The BLP claimed to have made a major contribution towards improving the lot of rural women, including the establishment of 10 000 co-operatives, 1 793 cottage industries, 2 397 farms, 470 women's centres and 233 health centres. Wishing to establish a permanent place for herself in history, Maryam Babangida obtained public money through her husband in order to build a huge edifice in Abuja, valued at N1.6 billion (US$16 million). This she named the Maryam Babangida Centre for Women and Development. In 1992, when it appeared that her husband might have to vacate his office, she applied to the Corporate Affairs Commission to register the Centre as a Trust, with her and her son Mohammed as Trustees for life. Maryam Babangida often behaved as if she was the co-president of the country. According to Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, she summoned him one night to scold him over clashing dates for a cocktail reception she wished to organise for ECOWAS ambassadors and their wives. She apparently informed the Minister, in the presence of her husband, that she had "a joint-right with the President to appoint a new Minister of External Affairs" (The News, October 25, 1993). Shortly thereafter, Professor Akinyemi was sacked and a new Minister appointed. That event, Akinyemi claims, signalled the beginning of a joint imperial presidency. In that "joint imperial presidency", it was often assumed that Maryam was the real power behind the throne. Now ladies and gentlemen of JF, with those few examples above, you may take a look at our own First Ladies and see whether there is any justification to condemn them for performing their duties as first ladies. In my opinion our first ladies have been too modest. What they have done is in line with what they are expected to do in accordance with Tanzanian/African context. We should encourage rather than discourage them.