First Ladies: A Short Primer

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The position of First Lady is one of the most influential and visible roles on the world stage, yet it does not come with a job description. For nearly 10 years, the Global First Ladies Alliance has worked with 45 First Ladies and their offices to assist them as they set priorities, identify strategic partners, generate positive impact, and develop lasting legacies. This handbook lays out our lessons learned, and is made available for use by First Ladies’ offices across the world. It is open-source and collaborative, and we will continue to upload case studies and content directly from the First Ladies offices.

Executive Summary

The goal of this primer is to help First Ladies be the most effective and impactful change agents possible.


Chapter 1. First Ladies: an underutilized resource

First Ladies – the wives of presidents or prime ministers – occupy a unique and potentially influential position in society.


Chapter 2: Choosing priorities

Selecting appropriate problems is challenging because it requires balancing a First Lady’s personal interests and expertise with larger national needs.


Chapter 3. Strategic planning

After establishing a clear vision, First Ladies and their staff will want to determine the mission and agenda of the First Lady’s office.


Chapter 4. The many roles of First Ladies

Traditionally, the role of a First Lady was to act as a social hostess during gatherings at the state residency.


Chapter 5. Building a network of partners

First Ladies need to rely on a cadre of partners to do most of the heavy lifting, particularly in terms of funding and implementing change.


Chapter 6. Communicating with others

“It is natural for people to delight in watching works of art that are realistic representations of life for this is how we learn.” - Aristotle


Chapter 7. Building a legacy

Ambitious plans are notoriously difficult to achieve quickly, and First Ladies often leave office before seeing their visions come to fruition.


Chapter 8. Funding

Some sources of funding include multi-laterals, bi-laterals, businesses and individuals, foundations and NGOs, ministries, and donors.


We welcome your feedback!

This primer is written collaboratively between GFLA and First Ladies Offices. Please contribute your case studies, edits, and additions. Contributors will receive attribution.

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