As the world celebrates International Women’s Day today, here at Zazuu, we are celebrating the standout achievements of women shaping the world. Seeing as the date falls on the 8th of March, we have decided to spotlight 8 African women who are changing the narrative and breaking biases.
Following an illustrious career working with global pharmaceutical giants Merck Group, Rasha Kelej was appointed as one of 100 members of the Egyptian senate in 2020. Although she is not the only female member of the senate, Rasha stands out due to her remarkable corporate career in addition to political excellence.
In addition to being a member of the Egyptian senate, Rasha is also the CEO of Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Group.
Emma Inamutila Theofelus
Being a female government official in Africa is one thing. Being the youngest female government official is another, and Emma Inamutila Theofelus does it effortlessly.
At the time of her appointment as Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Republic of Namibia, she was Africa’s youngest minister. She led the country’s communications during the Covid pandemic with resounding success.
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Very few Africans regardless of gender can boast of the accolades of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. Her portfolio reads:
- Former Managing Director of the World Bank, Minister of Finance (Nigeria),
- Minister of Foreign Affairs (Nigeria),
- Founder of NOI polls – Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization
- Member, International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, among others.
She currently serves as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation where she’s tasked with managing the organisation’s administrative processes
Climate Change is a growing concern across the world, with Africa highlighted as one of the continents to feel the worst of its impact. As such, it is only right that Africans are the leading voices behind the campaign for action against climate change. Vanessa Nakate has gained recognition for being one of the leading voices in this arena.
Alongside other contemporaries like Gretha Thunberg, Vanessa has made her voice heard in the most important rooms where Climate Change is up for discussion. She often uses her platform to draw attention to the immediate dangers of climate change in Africa.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
History books are often written with reference to firsts, and that is how Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote her name. Becoming Africa’s first female elected president in 2006, Ellen broke many barriers for women across the continent.
Her administration inherited a Liberia recovering from a bitter civil war and brought stability and progress to it. Part of her remarkable achievements include securing millions of dollars of foreign investments into the previously war-torn country. She also doubled down of fostering peace by creating the Truth and Reconcilliation committee to investigate corruption and foster ethnic togetherness post-war.
Although she is no longer president of Liberia, she still remains an influential figure in her country and across Africa.
While it is unfortunate that there are still a lot of firsts for women in Africa, it also presents a chance for today’s Amazons to etch their names in glory. Maeza Ashenafi currently serves in Ethiopia as the President of the Federal Supreme Court —the first woman to occupy that role in the court’s 24-year history.
Maeza has always been an advocate for Women’s rights in Ethiopia, speaking out against age-old traditions that cast women as delicate and weak, degrading them in society.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When Chimamnda Adichie first published Purple Hibiscus in 2003, there was no telling the impact she would have on the world. Since publishing her first novel, she has gone on to publish two more widely acclaimed novels alongside a litany of short pieces.
Over her career, she has become renowned, not only as a writer, but as an avid campaigner for women’s rights. Her catchphrase “we should all be feminists” has become synonymous with women’s rights movements across the world. She has also been regarded for bringing a new generation of readers to African literature.
Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka
South Africa has its own amazon in Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka. A renowned politician and policymaker, Phumzile has made her mark both at home and abroad. After serving as Deputy President of South Africa between 2003 and 2008, she returned to global service as the Executive Director of UN Women. In the role, she was responsible for several movements including the HeForShe solidarity campaign for gender equality.
She also concurrently served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General, a role she occupied until August 2021. Although she is currently retired from active service with the UN, Phumzile remains an influential figure in South African politics.