The status of women in Africa is varied across regions and nations. Women account for 50% of Africa’s varied population, like elsewhere in the world they are more vulnerable to poverty, domestic violence and often lack access to education. Women have always been active in agriculture, trade and other economic pursuits but in modern Africa women have made significant strides in the political arena over the past few years. The continental political body, the African Union (AU), took a major step by promoting gender parity in its top decision-making positions. In 2003 five women and five men were elected as AU commissioners.
1. Agnes Binagwaho
Agnes is a Rwandese pediatrician, Vice Chancellor of The University of Global Health Equity and former Minister for Health in the Rwandan government. She has served as a senior lecturer in the Harvard Medical School and also became a member of the board of trustees at Rockefeller Foundation.
Binagwaho’s research studies and publications are an aim to improve access to the prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS. When she was serving as Minister for Health, she launched a series of online topics through Twitter related to global health policies and Rwanda’s health sector. She partnered with Rwanda-American ICT Company Nyakura to grant Rwandans who did not have internet access to send their questions via SMS.
In 2015 she received two awards, The Roux Prize through the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation for her use of Global Burden of Disease data to reduce infant mortality in Rwanda. The Ronald McDonald House Charities Award for her excellent contribution to improving childrens’ health. She also won the prize for L’OREAL-UNESCO for women in science international award for her remarkable contribution towards the improvement of the health sector in Rwanda.
2. Agnes Matilda Kalibata
Agnes is a Rwandan agricultural scientist and research policy maker. She is also the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an organization that seeks to transform Africa Agriculture from a subsistence model to strong businesses that improve the livelihoods of the continent’s farming households.
Throughout her tenure as Rwanda’s Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, she promoted the use of science based agriculture to increase food production and improve food security with more focus on family farmers. Poverty levels in Rwanda also dropped upto 50 percent. Agnes has been instrumental in advocating for gender equality emphasizing the economic benefits of encouraging women to play a more public role in society. She was awarded with the Yara Prize now called the Africa Food Prize which recognises outstanding individuals who put much effort in changing the reality of farming in Africa.
3. Ahunnwa Eziakonwa
Ahunna is a leading Nigerian development and humanitarian specialist with over 20 years experience in the United Nations where she has served in different senior roles. In 2018 She was appointed as the serving Assistant Administrator and Director Regional Bureau of Africa. She created the UNDP-Tony Elumelu Foundation Partnership to empower 100,000 youth in Africa. Her brainchild, the Africa Young Women Leaders – a joint initiative with the African Union Commission, unleashed an outstanding cohort of women leaders who are being nurtured across UNDP to drive change in Africa. She has served as the UN’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia and worked as Chief of the Africa Section for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) where she managed the operations of 15 African countries.
4. Aisha Yesufu
Aisha is Nigerian activist and businesswoman who co-founded the #BringBackOurGirls Movement that brought attention to over 200 abducted girls from a secondary school in Chibok by a terrorist group Boko Haram. She has been involved in the SARS movement against police brutality in Nigeria. She was named among the BBC’s 100 Women in 2020.
5. Aja Fatoumata C.M. Jallow Tambajang
Aja is a Gambian politician who served as the Vice President of Gambia and Minister of Women Affairs. Earlier in her career she had been the Chair of the Gambia National Women’s Council and Advisor to Dawda Jawara. She was one of the two female ministers in the cabinet alongside Susan Waffa Ogoo. Aja went on to work for UNDP in the field of development including 5years in a war torn Mano river where she was a victim of rebel hostage situation. She went on to announce the creation of a national commission for asset recovery in order to reclaim what had allegedly been lost through corruption during Jammeh’s tenure. She was awarded the New African Woman of the year Award by the New African Woman Magazine in 2017.
6. Allen Kagina
Allen is the Executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority but before that she served as a commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority. After transforming Uganda’s tax authority, Allen Kagina joined the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to revitalize the organization and tackle corruption. Major institutional reforms have laid the foundations for a new era for UNRA, characterized by transparency, efficiency, and improved service for the Ugandan people.
Kagina started her career in 1985 as a teaching assistant at Makerere University. She later moved to the Office of the President. In 1992, she joined the URA as a senior principal revenue officer, serving in that capacity until 1998. In 2000, she was promoted to the rank of deputy commissioner for customs at URA, serving in that capacity until 2001. She was appointed commissioner general of URA in 2004.She is credited with improving the URA's financial performance. She was awarded the Corporate Leadership Award in February 2006, by Destiny Consult, an industry group, for turning around the performance of the tax body since her appointment to head the organization in 2004. In October 2010, her contract was renewed for another three years.
7. Amina J Mohammed
Amina is a Kenyan Cabinet secretary, lawyer and diplomat of Somali descent. She is currently the cabinet secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya. She previously served as the chairwoman og the International Organization for Migration and also the World Trade Organization's general council making her the first woman to chair the body. She chaired the Trade Policy Review Body in 2003 and chairman of the Dispute Settlement Body in 2004. After her appointment in 2018 to the Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina was lauded for the administration of the 2018 examinations. She also achieved a 93% transition of pupils finishing primary school to join high school – the highest in Kenyan history at the time. She also devised and implemented a Special Needs Education policy and restructured the Higher Education Loans Board, which provides student loans in Kenya. Her reforms in the Vocational Training Centers increased enrollment in vocational training by 100%. She also completed and piloted the Competency-Based Curriculum. However, her decision to delay the implementation of the Curriculum in 2019 proved controversial and she reversed herself on it after a dress-down from President Uhuru Kenyatta. Her decision to lower the entry grade to teacher training colleges to a D was also overturned by the Kenyan High Court. These decisions are thought to have contributed to her being moved to the Sports, Heritage and Culture Ministry in March 2019.
8. Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu
Ifeyinwa is the CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Africa’s leading philanthropy empowering African entrepreneurs creating jobs and wealth on the continent. She is also a lawyer who joined the foundation as the Director of Partnerships and Evaluation, a role she held for two years. While in this position Ifeyinwa developed the foundation’s institutional framework for financial and value-add partnerships.
9. Nadeen Ashraf
Born in Cairo, Nadeen is an activist who use for social media activated the #MeToo within Egypt. In 2020, Ashraf set up an instagram page called “Assault Police'' which was the first public platform for women in Egypt to have a voice. In 2013 almost 90 percent of egyptian women said they were survivors of sexual assault. This page however played a key role in uncovering the case of the harasser and alleged rapist Ahmed Bassam Zaki who was sentenced to three years imprisonment for cyber sexual harassment. This case caused high profile people and organizations in Egypt such as Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque to speak out against rape and sexual violence. Nadeen’s page content grew from whistle-blowing to to expressing general concerns about sexual violence as well as educate and provide resources to women. The same account spurred other movements and encouraged Egyptian women to speak out against sexual harassament. By the end of 2020, Nadeen contemplated evolving the account into a fulltime organization that can support survivors in a variety of ways.
10. Ubah Ali
Ali is a social activist and feminist from Somaliland who campaigns against female genital mutilation. Born in Burco Toghdeer region in Somaliland, Ali became widely known for her campaign against FGM in somaliland for which she founded Solace for Somaliland Girls to end the practise through education and creation of awareness. Ali as well as her sisters are survivors of the practice. She also established an organization called Rajo: Hope for Somaliland Community with the aim of providing educational opportunities for orphans and underprivileged students and Somaliland.