This powerful and influential lady is famed for having been the First Lady of two countries, though not both at the same time of course.
Born in rural Mozambique in 1945, Graça Simbine won a scholarship to Lisbon University, becoming fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French and English. After her studies she returned to Mozambique to train as a teacher, and then to rise to the position of Minister of Education and Culture in 1975, in Samora Machel’s new government. This was also the year she married Machel.
After leaving her ministerial post, Graça Machel worked tirelessly on United Nations projects on behalf of, particularly, Women and Children. Her work has been widely recognised and valued, and in 2007 she was made a Dame of the British Empire in recognition of her services.
In 1986 her husband was killed in a ‘plane crash while returning from a visit to South Africa. The aircraft came down where the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland meet, and although the official report suggests an accident, Graça Machel is convinced that there was foul play, something she has laboured tirelessly to prove.
Moving easily on the world stage by the 1990s, and rubbing shoulders with world leaders, Graça Machel was eventually to marry the then president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, so becoming First Lady of a second country.