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Betty Kaunda
Betty Kaunda (cropped).jpg
Kaunda in 1975
1st First Lady of Zambia
In role
24 October 1964 – 2 November 1991
President Kenneth Kaunda
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Vera Tembo
Personal details
Beatrice Kaweche Banda

(1928-11-17)17 November 1928
Chinsali, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)
Died 18 September 2012(2012-09-18) (aged 83)
Harare, Zimbabwe
(m. 1946)
Children 8; including Tilyenji

Beatrice "Betty" Kaunda (née Kaweche Banda; 17 November 1928 – 18 September 2012), was a Zambian educator and inaugural First Lady of Zambia from 1964 to 1991 as the wife of the country's first president, Kenneth Kaunda. She was known as Mama Betty Kaunda and the Mother of Zambia by Zambians.

As the First Lady, she was part of many diplomatic visits and matron of many organizations. As per political observers, she led a very simple life as the First Lady. She authored her autobiography along with Stephen A. Mpashi in 1969. She was involved in many charitable initiatives and she received the Indira Gandhi Non-violence award from UNIP for her efforts.

Early life

Betty Kaunda was born on 17 November 1928 to Kaweche Banda and Milika Sakala Banda at Mpika. She had her education at Mbereshi Girls and later underwent training at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation’s Women’s programme. She worked as a teacher in Mufulira.

She was married Kenneth Kaunda in 1946, who was involved in the independence movement and later went on to become the first President of independent Zambia. In his own words in his book Letter to My Children, Kaunda was the strength behind him all through their 66 years of relationship as she took care of the children in his absence. The colonial administration sent Kaunda to jail and she took to charcoal burning to feed the family. She is believed to have received multiple threats and coercions during those days, but she never gave up to the threats. In her own words, "The colonial administrators threatened to send us back to the villages after our husbands were arrested, but we refused". She mentioned that the letters she received from her husband during those days were source of strength to her and motivation too. He instructed her not to move from their house in Chilenje.

First Lady of Zambia

She was the First Lady of Zambia from October 1964 to November 1991. As the First Lady, she was part of many diplomatic visits and matron of many organizations. As per political observers, she led a very simple life even after becoming the First Lady and never gave in to the luxuries of the position. She authored her autobiography along with Stephen A. Mpashi and the book was brought out during 1969. She wore traditional chitenge outfits advising her fellow women to wear decent dress and to avoid mimicking outfits from foreign countries. she also advised young ladies who were ready for marriage to conserve the African tradition (Zambian culture). When invited to a kitchen party by giving them a present of the mbabula, broom, chitenge as a true woman as this is how she started her life.

Kenneth Kaunda and Betty were considered frontrunners in AIDS eradication in the country. Many scholars appreciated them for leading the way to allow them to be tested for HIV/AIDS and publish the results. She maintained a calm stature during later struggles when her husband was imprisoned during the 1990s. Betty had been active in opposing the encouragement of political parties to offer beer to youths, reflecting thoughts of her husband who threatened to quit presidency on account of excessive drinking prevalent in the society. She was involved in collecting donations during a copper mine accident, which left several killed. She received the Indira Gandhi Non-violence award from UNIP for her efforts on non-violence and peace missions.

Later years

Kaunda was considered the national mother by Zambian citizens, who often referred to her by the honorific nickname, Mama Betty Kaunda. She suffered from diabetes for many years.

Betty Kaunda died in the early hours of 19 September 2012 in Harare, Zimbabwe, while visiting her daughter. Kaunda and the other family members left for Harare to receive her body. She was 83-years old and was survived by her husband, eight children, 30 grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

Kaunda was given state funeral as the former First Lady of Zambia. She followed Christianity and her final rites were performed based on Christian practices. Her funeral, held at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in Lusaka on 28 September 2012, was attended by diplomats from other countries, state officials and thousands of Zambians. The government declared three days of national mourning, while television and radio stations played hymns dedicated to her during the morning and evening. Her burial was planned initially for Lubwa Mission, but was moved to the capital Lusaka on account of waning health of Kaunda.

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