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Philanthropic work earns First Lady honorary doctorate.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday received another feather in her cap with the conferment of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (Honoris Causa) degree by GD Goenka University of India in recognition of her accomplishments in raising the standards of marginalised communities, saving women from cervical cancer, protection of children, human rights and great philanthropic works.

GD Goenka, a group of institutions, was founded in 1994 offering high quality professional and educational programmes of international standards.

The internationally-recognised university has partnerships with a lot of varsities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Taiwan, Turkey, France, Canada, Uzbekistan, Chile, Malaysia, Denmark, China and Italy.

It was a marvel to watch Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa walking gracefully with other doctors in the procession while resplendent in her colourful academic regalia.

She was played the song “Makorokoto” by Mechanic Manyeruke which lit the auditorium as people danced, ululated and whistled.

She also had the opportunity to interact with Zimbabwean students studying at the institution of higher learning.

According to the citation by the university, the First Lady, Dr Mnangagwa was honoured as founder and patron of Angel of Hope Foundation for vigorously spearheading philanthropic work, spreading its outreach to the most marginalised communities and advocating for their inclusion and integration into the mainstream of society.

“During the Ordinary session of the 23rd General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies For Development (OAFLAD) held in Niger, July 2019 she was elected Vice President of OAFLAD to crown her for her outstanding work which has been recognised and acknowledged beyond the national borders of Zimbabwe,” read the citation.

“The First Lady launched the National Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination, an anti-cancer programme expected to benefit over 800 000 girls aged between 10 and 14. She has also been providing accessible and free cervical, breast and prostate cancer screening through her mobile clinic screening programme.

“She has received accolades from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in Zimbabwe and other stakeholders for her keen interest in embracing issues bedevilling adolescents by way of interactive sessions on a countrywide schools programme discussing issues around child abuse, early marriages, teen pregnancies, drug abuse and school dropouts.”

In recognition of her sterling and exemplary contribution to the field of women and girl child upliftment, the university saw it fit to award her with the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (Honoris Causa).

Speaking at the colourful convocation ceremony at the university yesterday, Vice Chancellor of GD Goenka University Dr Tabrez Ahmad said the university would go a long way in helping students from Zimbabwe to get quality global education at the institution.

“Our focus has been to put a major thrust to foster the holistic growth and development of students by creating opportunities to pursue comprehensive and rounded education which include possibilities to pursue a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities that complement classroom-based learning. We also focus on having a solidified culturally and experientially diverse cohort of students and staff,” he said.

Furthermore, Dr Ahmad said: “By virtue of the authority vested in me as the vice chancellor of GD Goenka University, I hereby confer upon you the Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) degree for which you have individually qualified and charge you that in your life, by word and deed, you prove yourself worthy of it.”

In her acceptance speech, Amai Mnangagwa thanked the Government of India for being an all weather friend to Zimbabwe through mutually beneficial partnerships for the good of the people.

She expressed gratitude for the honour and invitation extended to her by the institution and also thanked Ambassador Khundija for his sterling work and cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe.

The First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, also thanked her husband, the President, for his tremendous support and encouragement.

“Today is a very special day for me as I am receiving the highest academic honour bestowed unto me, that of an honorary doctorate in Philosophy by the esteemed GD Goenka University,” she said.

“This accolade is special to me because it has been conferred unto me in light of the work I passionately carry out in my home country, Zimbabwe. To be awarded such a prestigious endorsement from a world class institution such as GD Goenka is something that I do not take lightly but rather hold it close to my heart endearingly. The doctorate awarded to me is a recognition, a realisation and indeed a fulfilment of what I had always dreamt of.”

Humanitarian work, Dr Mnangagwa said, had always been innate when it comes to her.

“It did not begin with my tenure as First Lady,” she said.

“As a former member of Parliament in Zimbabwe, I assisted many women in my constituency and other rural constituencies through life-changing initiatives for their benefit.”

“I was responsible for the launch of the first ever Women’s Bank in Zimbabwe. The women would borrow from the bank and would then use that money to trade in livestock and this income generating initiative capacitated them to afford modern houses and residential stands in urban areas.”

The mother of the nation said at the same time she was also a serving member of the Pan African Parliament, holding the position of chairperson representing the Sadc region and would still carry out her philanthropic work through that avenue.

“I have always had an eye for the underprivileged, marginalised and vulnerable members of our community and would seek ways in which to ameliorate their living standards,” she said.

“The role of First Lady only amplified this passion and became an enabler to reach wider audiences with my philanthropic works. Having received this honour, I am inspired to do more charity work. In fact it is my intention to go beyond, doing more and more philanthropy work in Zimbabwe.”

The First Lady thanked GD Goenka University and expressed hope for continued relations in the academic sphere.

“I would like to personally endorse this institution as an ideal learning destination for prospective students and Zimbabwe,” she said.

For the success of her Angel of Hope Foundation, Dr Mnangagwa said she required, received and continued to receive overwhelming support from an array of well-wishers such as higher learning institutions and individual partners who were generous with cooperation, assistance, suggestions, contributions in kind, human resources, among others.

“Indeed it is a collective effort that I unreservedly acknowledge and thank,” she said.

“I, therefore, heartily thank all those who have contributed in one way or the other towards the success of the Angel of Hope Foundation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my husband as I thank him for his tremendous moral support and encouragement even as busy as he is head of state and Government.

“He accepted my passion and is understanding when I spend weeks on end in remote areas around the country and has to be left alone back home.

“He understands that the plight of the disadvantaged is my passion and he accepts that most of the times I sleep in tents when I am in very remote areas with the aim of assisting those in need.

“He spares time to support me in my endeavour. He is indeed generous with constructive suggestions. I want to thank him most heartily.”

The mother of the nation said the award was not hers alone, but for Zimbabweans from all walks of life.

“I thank you all for being with me on this foundation that is targeted to transform lives of the disadvantaged and marginalised members of Zimbabwean society,” she said.

“Last, but not least I would like to take this opportunity to encourage women from the tertiary sphere, female policymakers and players in the business sector to continuously use their knowledge and expertise in coming with sustainable solutions to global development.

“Naturally women have a nurturing spirit, thus their significance in the healing and advancement of the global village is paramount.”

Henceforth, the First Lady said women in positions of influence should advocate for other women in disadvantaged positions for all of us to be enabled enablers from the grassroot level.

“Goodness is inherent in humanity regardless of gender,” she said. “It is a God-given trait as natural as the air we breathe. Let us be our brothers and sisters keepers in that let us always have the burden in our hearts to assist our neighbours in need. I now invite you to come and invest and as tourists in Zimbabwe.”

Vice chairperson of GD Goenka group and Chancellor of the University Mrs Renu Goenka said it had been a great honour for her institution to work with the First Lady because of her hard work and quest to empower the womenfolk.

“I am happy with how much she has done for women in Zimbabwe,” she said. “I am also a woman and believe that for leaders out there, there is always a great woman at the back who inspired them to be where they are. It is a great honour to be with her and award her for her hard work because she has done a lot for the country and is running a wonderful NGO, the Angel of Hope Foundation.

“We wish her all the best luck and we definitely would like to honour women who have worked in social and humanity spheres. Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa deserves to be recognised.”

High Commissioner of Namibia to India Mr Gabriel Sinimbo was equally grateful for the First Lady’s achievement.

“I am extremely very proud and happy to have had an opportunity to attend this event in honour of the conferment of a PHD honorary to the First Lady Her Excellency Auxillia Mnangagwa,” he said. “As a member of Sadc we take pride in this conferment. It signifies her achievement in terms of her philanthropic service to the people of Zimbabwe.

“India being a large country, the actualisation of this event highlights not only Zimbabwe, but Sadc in particular so we feel that it is our achievement.”

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to India Dr Chipare showered the First Lady with praises for doing the country proud.

“What we have witnessed here today bears testimony to the cooperation between India and Zimbabwe. In this regard, I thank the governments of the two sisterly countries for making this event a reality. Let me take this opportunity to thank GD Goenka University for bestowing upon you this prestigious honour,” he said, emphasising that she had done the country proud.

The Chief Guest Member of Parliament Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad paid tribute to the strong bilateral relations between India and Zimbabwe.

“It is the job of leaders and policymakers like us to have those who have the commitment, the hard work, the vision to make it happen honoured,” he said, adding that India and Africa had a lot in common particularly in the areas of fighting poverty and empowering their people,” he said.

Also present at the colourful event was Minister Exe Eucharia from the Nigerian High Commission, High Commissioner for Malawi Mr Leonard Mengezi, Myron Bonang the Head of Chancery for the Botswana High Commission, the High Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania Anisa Kapufi Mbega and the High Commission of Mozambique Mr Emindo Augusto Ferreira among many other diplomats.

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