Tendai Rupapa in MOSCOW, Russia
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Honourable Tatiana Golikova this week had a heart-to-heart discussion as women on a number of issues of mutual interest, including health and education.
The Deputy Prime Minister is the one who invited the First Lady to her current visit to Moscow during which she has been honoured with a doctorate degree and given an award for her charity work which has transformed the lives of many people in Zimbabwe.
The First Lady was accompanied by Mr Muponisi Dzapasi, the chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Moscow, Ms Thatshelwa Sibanda, a principal officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Ms Memory Mbendera, an administration officer in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation.
The Deputy Prime Minister expressed gratitude to Dr Mnangagwa for honouring her invitation to visit Moscow.
“We welcome you to Moscow and thank you for accepting my invitation. I hope your stay in Russia will be pleasant and interesting. I would like to say a few words about the areas of cooperation where we already have quite a good activities and prospects for the future. The first area is healthcare and I am glad you met with our minister of health.
“We had a previous agreement which lasted from 1997 to 2020 on healthcare cooperation which has since been halted and expired.
“It was covering issues of cooperation in medical education and scientific cooperation to fight infectious and non-infectious diseases including heart diseases and cancers, but we have already prepared a new version of the agreement to extend it further and we have transferred it to the Zimbabwean side.
“If Zimbabwe gives a positive answer to this agreement, it could be signed during the Russia-Africa Summit in 2023 to be held in St Petersburg,” she said.
The Deputy Prime Minister spoke about Zimbabwean students who were studying in her country in various specialties.
“At least 146 students from Zimbabwe are studying in Russia on medical education and 35 of them are getting State’s scholarships from Russia. In the year 2021 to 2022, 15 more students were admitted and we intend to continue such cooperation. In 2022, Russia continued its programme of offering scholarships to foreign students on paediatrics, obstetrics, cardiology and other specialties.”
“We are ready to have additional specialties such as microbiology, infectious diseases, and epidemiology and we are ready to admit around 50 people. If you are interested in taking part in this programme, we stand ready to extend it to you. We are ready to continue professional training in the health sector,” she said.
She then asked the First Lady who is the country’s health ambassador to tell her more about her Angel of Hope Foundation.
Dr Mnangagwa thanked her host for the warm welcome that she and her delegation received and the wonderful opportunity she had to learn the rich history of Russia.
“This is not my first visit to your beautiful country, in 2021 I participated at the 3rd Eurasian Women’s Forum in St Petersburg. It is commendable to have created the largest international platform that brings together female leaders to address global challenges and proffer lasting solutions.
“I wish to inform you, Deputy Prime Minister, about the Angel of Hope Foundation. The foundation brings about meaningful change to the most vulnerable in society through providing access to healthcare, social services, education and economic empowerment initiatives with particular emphasis on women, youth and children.
“I have a mentorship programme for girls and young women in various industries, this initiative is in line with our objective to empower girls and women from marginalised communities,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa said her foundation spearheads various programmes including establishment of a children’s centre.
“I have taken off children living and working in the streets and founded a shelter thereby housing them. I have established a mother and child hospital. As the ambassador of health, I embarked on building the first ever mother and child hospital which is nearing completion. I have also introduced the sewing of reusable sanitary wear,” she said.
The foundation, she said, mobilised material and machines coupled with training on how to sew reusable pads.
“I have also embarked on a national school feeding programme. We have initiated a schools feeding programme in a bid to promote children from underprivileged backgrounds to attend school and boost their concentration levels through nutritional feeding. Noting the rise in gender-based violence cases, which rose during the covid-19 induced lockdown, I set up a national gender-based violence call centre with a toll-free line in my office. Services offered include medical assistance, counselling and spiritual assistance and also victim friendly judicial assistance,” she said.
The Angel of Hope Foundation encourages those in positions of power, Dr Mnangagwa said, to make a difference in the world.
She said volunteerism remains one of the essential tools for developing a peaceful and sustainable world.
“Let us give a voice to those who don’t have one and let us make sure that everyone is free to live a life of productivity, safety and dignity,” she said.
In response, the Deputy Prime Minister, was glad with the First Lady’s philanthropy and areas of interest she highlighted.
“Thank you for the information you have shared about your foundation and its work. Indeed, you are doing a lot for the people of Zimbabwe especially women and children.
“The areas of cooperation that you mentioned like healthcare, the sanitary cooperation as well as education and matters of youth are most important for our joint work in the future and what we are doing.
“You have mentioned the construction of a hospital and I also talked about the local production of vaccines, all of these requires professional medical training for people in Zimbabwe and that is why we are continuing the programmes for higher education for the purposes of specialist degrees.
“I would also like to congratulate you on receiving your honorary doctorate from the Russian university for humanities and an award for your great philanthropic works especially in the health sector,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa extended an invite to partner her organisation in outreach programmes.
“I do conduct outreach programmes in remote and hard to reach areas, as a Foundation, I am therefore inviting doctors from Russia to visit Zimbabwe and partner the foundation in the outreach programmes for the betterment of the rural folk,” she said.
Representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ms Sibanda said in the intergovernmental commission between Zimbabwe and Russia, Zimbabwe agreed to share vital information on the national education system in order to identify the gaps in which the Russian counterparts may support the Zimbabwean Government.
“In 2019, the two ministries responsible for education and science in both countries, signed an MOU in science and higher education which gave way to a broad spectrum of projects.
“On 25 November 2022, the two ministries signed an agreement on mutual recognition of educational qualifications. This will allow the acceptance of qualifications obtained in both jurisdictions.
“We note that we have a total of 488 Zimbabwean students studying in Russia of which, we note with gratitude that the Russian government has increased the number of scholarships offered to the ministry responsible for higher education in Zimbabwean students from 80-125.
A further 10 scholarships, she said, were offered for students willing to specialise in mining, 3 scholarships for students majoring in space science, these students are already in Russia.
“It is also pleasant to note that a few weeks ago the university of St Petersburg offered 30 scholarships to our Zimbabwean students.
“When it comes to the Russian language studies, so far we have managed to facilitate the establishment of a Russian language faculty in the University of Zimbabwe and we are in discussions on how to further establish more language study faculties in other universities.
We are also happy with the collaborations between 11 Zimbabwe state universities and the Russia Africa network of universities. Various projects have been proposed which are at different stages of implementation,” she said.
The Deputy Prime Minister responded saying: “In the year 2023-2024, the Russian Government has increased the scholarships for Zimbabwean students and I am sure this practice will continue further. The university of Zimbabwe was the first to join the Russian-African education network. Currently 11 education organisations in Zimbabwe are taking part in the project.
“I would like to inform you that the Zimbabwean students are very active in every programme organised in Russia. They are present in everything. Coming back to the Russia-Africa summit in 2023, this is a way we can further expand our cooperation,” she said.