In the olden days, First Ladies or companions of presidents were simply regarded as trophy wives.

But nowadays they have become influential in the inner circle of the Presidency. 

A black-and-white picture from before independence shows the image of the couple who would become Namibia's first citizens.

On March 21, 1990, Namibia celebrated its independence, and Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma took an oath as the country's first president.

Kovambo Nujoma became the First Lady of Namibia, 34 years after she married "Kapembe" as Nujoma is affectionately known to some. 

Her era was different and a more traditional one—understandably so because the first years of post-independence were in the reconstructive phase, where not much official responsibility was carved out for the First Lady.

During her tenure, she hardly spoke in public, and her activities were less publicized.

However, Kovambo played her supportive role for fifteen years, as her significant other, Daniel, a name she sparingly used, served three terms.

In 2005, when Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba officially took office as the country's second president, Penehupifo became the First Lady.

She was 15 years younger than maKovambo, however, what they had in common was that both of them were 57 years old at the time they became first ladies.

It was also the beginning of a major transformation in the role of the First Lady.

Public appearances of the veteran midwife outside the delivery room were at first somewhat nerve-wracking but inevitable and became more frequent over the years.

As a registered nurse, Penehupifo championed the campaign on maternal and child health care and advocated for women's empowerment.

She is also the founder and patron of the Organization for the Empowerment of Widows, Widowers, and Orphans of HIV and AIDS (OEWONA).

Penehupifo also joined the Organization of the African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS in Africa in 2005 and served as Vice President and President respectively.

Their residential address in the mountainous area of Auasblick on the eastern outskirts of Windhoek was about to undergo a major transformation as she bid farewell.

Another peaceful transfer of power was on the horizon.

But first, a matrimonial ceremony for the incoming couple.

Then President-elect Hage Geingob tied the knot on Valentine's Day with Monica Kalondo, a few weeks before taking an oath as the country's third president on March 21st, 2015.

Monica became Namibia's youngest first lady.

She was 38 years old at the time—29 years younger than her predecessor.

Monica, who grew up in the quiet southern town of Oranjemund, at times speaks with a smile, but don't let that fool you.

Behind the shy smile of this businesswoman is a decisive character, a tough nut to crack but with a heart of gold.

She can also teach you a thing or two if you cross the line.

Monica dedicated her time to tackling issues of teenage pregnancy, gender, and domestic violence and reaching out to the needy.

She is also a pioneer in breaking barriers, restoring hope, and trying to understand the minds of those behind the bars of correctional facilities.

Her perseverance and brains caught the attention of many, including foreign news agencies.

In their curiosity, they asked a question that you would have, given the opportunity. How is it like being married to a president?

"Being a First Lady is really being married to a politician who is very powerful, but it is not your power; it is his. It is much more glamorous looking than what it is in real life; it's a challenge?"

Undeniably, she made her mark internationally, being recognized as one of Africa's top economic leaders and one of its most reputable and influential figures.

No wonder the saying "behind every successful man, stands a woman," because Theopoldine, MaKambosho—yes, Kambosho, and Monica—the conqueror, if I may say so—have laid the foundation, transformed the role, and set the scene for future First Ladies, or First Gentlemen, if you prefer.



Laimi Hainghumbi