News Release

First ladies from African countries convene at inaugural executive leadership program to advance health and development

Global First Ladies Academy launches with a high-level, four day symposium, hosted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Meeting Announcement

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, July 10, 2023 – First Ladies from countries across Africa and experts from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health will meet the week of July 10, 2023 to discuss current trends, critical research, and sustainable, evidence-based approaches to promote population health and well-being. From July 10th to the 13th, First Ladies and their senior advisors will participate in an executive leadership program to advance critical health and development issues in their countries and regions, including communicable and chronic disease management, community health, maternal and child health, climate change, health systems, and gender gaps in access to healthcare.

This week’s program is the first convening of the Global First Ladies Academy, which aims to support First Ladies' and First Partners’ work to catalyze positive impact and social transformation in their communities and around the world. Through regular gatherings, the Global First Ladies Academy aims to foster collaboration between First Ladies and First Partners' at regional and global levels, and to support programmatic and policy initiatives related to health, education, gender equality, economic development, and climate change.

“As partners of Presidents and Prime Ministers, First Ladies have the potential to be highly visible and influential. Their role as private counsel to their partners and their access to leaders allow them to convene stakeholders, influence priorities, and change social norms,” said Cora Neumann, PhD, Global First Ladies Alliance president and founder. “Their position as role model also provides them an important platform to reach communities, address harmful norms, and impact behavioral change. Despite the role First Ladies can play in enabling change, few receive the training, network, and resources they need to do so successfully. GFLA was founded in 2009 to meet this need, and we are thrilled to be hosting this first ever academic and leadership training course with Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, a global leader in health and development.”


“The Global First Ladies Academy is an important opportunity for First Ladies to dialogue with experts and peers to deepen our understanding of significant global developments in a constantly changing geopolitical, economic, environmental, social, and technological context,” said First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos, President of the Organization of African First Ladies. “The lessons from this week, and future gatherings, will help First Ladies strengthen our voices and take action on pressing issues, and to make the most impactful use of our individual and collective platforms.” 

Workshops and roundtable discussions will focus on interdisciplinary strategies to improve health, facilitated by leaders including the Hon. Anita McBride, former Senior Advisor to George W. Bush and Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush, and Columbia public health and medicine experts including Columbia Mailman Dean Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH; Katrina Armstrong, MD, chief executive officer of Columbia University Irving Medical Center; Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, director of the global health center ICAP; and Michael Sparer, JD, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management. 

“The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health is honored to support the Global First Ladies Academy and its efforts to protect and improve the public’s health and societal well-being,” said Dean Fried. “First Ladies are on the front lines of health and improving people’s lives, with unique perspective, reach, and influence to improve the well-being of communities and countries. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with this visionary group of changemakers.” 


The Global First Ladies Academy executive leadership program is a partnership among Columbia University Mailman School of Public, the Global First Ladies Alliance, and the Organization of African First Ladies for Development.  


Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health


Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the fourth largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its nearly 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change and health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with more than 1,300 graduate students from 55 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit


Global First Ladies Academy

The Global First Ladies Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, supports First Ladies of Presidents and Prime Ministers, individually and collectively, in their efforts to create a positive, long-term impact in their countries and around the world. Through training and in-country direct advising, GFLA strengthens the capacity of First Ladies and their senior staff, and improves in-country programming related to national and global development challenges. Since 2009, GFLA has partnered with and supported over 45 First Ladies and 150 of their senior staff from the U.S., Europe, Africa and Latin America. Our curriculum was developed in collaboration with First Ladies from across Africa and First Ladies of the U.S. and Europe, including Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Sarah Brown, and Cherie Blair. 


Organization of African First Ladies for Development

In 2002, First Ladies of Africa came together to form the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), with the objective to be a united voice for Africa’s most susceptible citizens; women and children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. OAFLA, now Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), is an advocacy organization where First Ladies of Africa seek to leverage their unique position to advocate for policies that make health services accessible and laws that boost women and youth empowerment. First Ladies of Africa reinforce favorable policies and programs through advocacy, resource mobilization and development of partnerships with all stakeholders at all levels. First Ladies engage in various community-level activities to sensitize community and create awareness on health risks and policies.


Contact: Stephanie Berger, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health,, 917.734.8973



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