Johannesburg – A cheering crowd of about 75 young women welcomed US First Lady Michelle Obama when she visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The group of women, who are in leadership roles across the continent, are taking part in the two-day meeting – the Young African Women Leaders Forum.
Wearing denim pants and an African print shirt by a Kenyan designer, the first lady greeted the group by saying she wished to hug them individually.
She apologised and thanked them for being patient with her. Obama, who was scheduled to arrive at the museum at 4pm on Tuesday, was late because she had met former President and icon Nelson Mandela. She only arrived at the venue just before 5pm.
Obama, who is a huge supporter of women’s rights, hoped that their engagement on Wednesday would yield positive results in promoting equality and progress in women’s lives.
Obama is set to deliver a keynote address on Wednesday morning at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, one of the many churches that became a hub of activity for political gatherings during the anti-apartheid struggle.
The US first lady, who is in the country for the first time, said the work that the women do “humbled” her and she was “proud” of the contribution they made in their communities.
“I want my daughters to be just like you when they grow up,” she told the cheering crowd.
The excitement of meeting the first lady of one of the most powerful countries in the world was visible on the faces of the young women.
Television presenter Precious Kofi said her first impressions of Obama were that she’s “warm, sincere and just lovely.”
She said the first lady gave each and everyone of them her undivided attention. “The one thing that has stood out about Mrs Obama is she’s very comfortable in her own skin. There’s a calm confidence about her,” said Kofi.
After the photo shoot, the first lady, her daughters and mother were then given a glimpse of what the apartheid regime was like.
Her visit to the country is a mix of policy and a personal pilgrimage, said Elizabeth Trudeau, spokesperson for the US embassy in South Africa.
She said Obama was on this trip to talk about women and youth development.
“The trip is a continuation of Mrs Obama’s work to engage young people, especially girls and young women, at home and abroad,” she said, adding that the “visit is important for them as a family. She’ll be visiting many struggle-era landmarks.” – BuaNews