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Graca Machel ex First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa

Graca Machel ex First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa

Graca Machel will take her place in history as a leader in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and injustice.

Graca Machel First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa

Graca Machel is the only women to have ever been first lady of two different countries, wife of Mozambique former president Samora Machel 1975 to 1986 and Nelson Mandela President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

Graça Simbine Machel was born on October 17, 1945, in Gaza, Mozambique, the last in a family of six children. Her father, a Methodist minister died three weeks before she was born. She attended Lisbon University in Portugal in 1968, to major in languages. Under surveillance from the Portuguese secret police, she was forced to abandon her education and flee to Switzerland to escape the prison sentence that was almost certainly waiting for her due to her political activities as a student.

Graca Machel and Samora Machel

In Tanzania, she underwent military training and learnt how to take an assault rifle apart and put it back together. Subsequently, she spent a short period in Mozambique Cabo Delgado Province, where she met Samora Machel, the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) commander who later became her husband.

In September 1975, she married Samora Machel, the first president of newly independent Mozambique. When Mozambique became independent and FRELIMO formed the country’s first government in 1975, Machel became a member of Frelimo's Central Committee and the Minister of Education and Culture. Machel is recognized for her dedication to educating the people of Mozambique, and for her leadership in organizations devoted to the children of her war-torn country. She has been a major force in increasing literacy and schooling in Mozambique and has spoken of the needs and rights of children, families and community, from platforms all over the world.

Following President Machel’s death in a plane crash on October 19, 1986, she resigned her post as Minister of Education; she was able to reduce the illiteracy rate in Mozambique by 72 percent.

Graca Machel and Nelson Mandela

After Graca Machel and Nelson Mandela met, she was reluctant to marry him or discuss their relationship in public. Nevertheless, Mandela wooed her the old-fashioned way, occasionally giving his bodyguards headaches as president when he would make unannounced stops to buy her chocolates. The friendship between Graca Machel and the President of South Africa Nelson Mandela in the 1990s began to flourish. Machel has known Nelson Mandela since her husband's death in 1986.

Shortly after his release from prison, Mandela met Graça Machel, the widow of former Mozambican president, Samora Machel. The couple decided to tie the knot on Nelson Mandela's 80th birthday on July 18, 1998; she was 52 and Mandela 80 however, Machel said they were a perfect fit because they were both settled. She's Mandela's third wife, Nelson Mandela once said his wife, Graca Machel, makes him "bloom like a flower." They were married for 15 years until Mandela’s death December 5, 2013.

Graca Machel is a leader in her own right known for her integral part Mozambican liberation struggle, international advocate for women and child rights, and had headed the first United Nations study on the impact of war on children. She was a Laureate of Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger from the Hunger Project in 1992 and in 1995 the Nansen Medal in recognition of her contribution to the welfare of refugee children and a member of the Africa Progress Panel.

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