There are many misconceptions around what African women can and cannot do, linked to the image of Africa as a backward and deeply repressive continent where women are incapable or prevented from certain activities. While this is a reality for many in different cultures and societies across the continent, there are women who have shown that there is more to African women than the one-dimensional way they’re often portrayed:
1. Jackie Mgido: this make-up artist and businesswoman is the brains behind Vault Cosmetics, a black-owned beauty business that is becoming known for quality, variety, and good service. From celebrities such as Jill Scott and Lorraine Pascale, to being featured in the Huffington Post, the Zimbabwean’s beauty brand is well on its way to establishing itself in the cosmetics business.
2. Nnedi Okorafor: this Nigerian-American author is the first black person to win the coveted World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death. Given the dominance of white male authors in the field of science fiction and fantasy, Okorafor has shown that African women can write in many different genres, including ones previously (and to some extent still perceived) as not being a space for them.
3. Besa Mumba: this Zambian pilot broke her country’s aviation record for being the youngest pilot to fly a commercial plane. At 19 years old, Mumba broke previous record holder Kalenga Kamwendo, who donned his pilot uniform at the age of 20. Mumba has proven that young Zambian women can fly high in the sky, and her achievement has broken barriers in Africa’s aviation industry.
4. Bonang Matheba: this South African television presenter has steadily been building her brand over the years, moving from presenting popular music show Live, to becoming a Revlon brand ambassador. Matheba has proven that a viable career in the entertainment industry is possible, and that women are just as capable of being in the spotlight and holding their own there.
5. Anne Kansiime: the Ugandan comedian has established a name for herself in a male-dominated field. Evolving from Youtube videos, Kansiime now has a show on Zambezi Magic, as well as doing comedy tours in countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa.
6. Fadumo Dayib: Somalia’s recent history has been one of war, civil unrest, and political instability. Out of what many have written off as a hopeless situation comes Fadumo Dayib, who is running as a candidate for president of Somalia. One of 18 candidates, Dayib is the only woman running for president, and in a country that’s in the top five worst places for women in the world. Dayib is an ordinary citizen with no previous connections to Somali politics – a shining example of civic duty and moral obligation to the nation.
7. Linda Masarira: the Zimbabwean activist has shown true endurance and determination in her mission to let her voice be heard. First arrested in 2015, Masarira has campaigned for women’s rights, started the Occupy Africa Unity Square Campaign in June 2016, and participated in the #Tajamuka protests. Masarira was arrested for taking part in the protests, and is currently still being held without official charge.