African Women to Celebrate – IWD 2017
This year is going to be no different from all the other years – the 8th of March is Women’s Day! International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. Here at Teakisi, we decided to come up with a list of African women whom we thought were bold for change – women who are forging a better and more inclusive world for African women. In no particular order, here are our 2017 nominees:
Hibo Wardere is a Somalian-born campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM), author, and public speaker. At age 6, she was the victim of FGM, an event she described as “being engulfed in pain from head to toe”. When she was 16, she struck a deal with a relative who promised to tell her everything about what happened after her wedding night. Hibo was horrified by the revelations and fled to London after the Somalian civil war broke out in the 1980s. Years later, when she was studying to become a teaching assistant, she opened up about her story in a homework essay. The head of staff read her work and asked her to deliver a speech to 120 teachers, during which some realised that their students might have experienced the same trauma. After reading Hibo’s essay, school governor Clare Coghill booked Hibo appointments with other schools in the area. Hibo has worked as a mediator and FGM educator since then, helping young students escape FGM.
Nykhor Paul: A few months ago, this 25-year old Ford model wrote a heated post on her Instagram account, criticising makeup artists for their lack of preparation when it came to black skin tones. In the post, she said she was tired of having to apologise for her skin colour, “Dear white people in the fashion world!”, the post began, “Please don’t take this the wrong way but it’s time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up, wtf!?” Nykhor Paul was born in South Sudan but, due to civil conflict, she escaped with her family to Ethiopia where she grew up as a refugee, and later moved to the United States.
Fadumo Dayib is a Somali politician and the first woman to run for President of Somalia, participating in the November 2016 election. Campaigning for that crucial election brought daily threats to Dayib, but she says she also received massive support from people in her home country. Dayib, who has lived in Finland since 1990, was the only woman contesting for this position among 18 other candidates, including, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former academic and activist who has been in power since 2012. Speaking to the Guardian Newspaper in 2016, Dayib said that she recognises her chances of winning are zero. “Anyone who is competent and qualified … they are never going to win. If you are not corrupt you will not get into the system. I will never pay one cent to anyone, so the likelihood of me winning is non-existent.” Fadumo’s story of determination, courage and triumph in the face of adversity had inspired thousands.
Lilian Makoi is the Tanzanian founder of Jamii, formerly known as bimaAfya – a paperless, mobile, micro-health insurance product specifically targeting the poor population and those working in the informal sector, that offers a platform for the user to inquire about the product, register to a policy, select a cover she can afford, make payment for the premium via mobile money and access her bimaAFYA benefit wallet via the mobile phone. Lilian says she got the inspiration to build the technology when her friend lost her husband who had been involved in an accident, she couldn’t afford to pay for the medical services. “That experience made me realise that if low-income households and people in the informal sector had access to insurance, it would make a big difference for them.”
Thato Kgatlhanye is a South African entrepreneur who founded Repurpose Schoolbags at 21. Many kids in her community had plastic bags as book bags, so she felt the need to change that. Thato saw an opportunity and decided to re-purpose these bags, making them durable and environmentally friendly. The new school bags were designed using up-cycled plastic bags, integrating solar technology and batteries to provide light for learners to study after dark. Each bag is made entirely from 20 Repurposed plastic bags and, by putting discarded plastic bags to meaningful use, the company promotes the preservation of the environment.
Birikit Terefe Tiruneh Birikiis is from Ethiopia and founded the Women’s Health Association of Ethiopia in order to train women in life skills and matters regarding health. Before beginning the organisation she had years of experience working with young girls in Africa. She created the first gender club at Addis Ababa University and is one of the founders of the national level girls club. Birikit advocates and fights against harmful traditional practices against women and has written and published various articles on Gender Based Violence and the African Peace and Security Architecture.
Evelyn Namara is a Ugandan social entrepreneur who has a passion for working with women and girls in technology and entrepreneurship. Evelyn is the founder of Innovate Uganda. One of Innovate’s flagship programmes is the M-Voucher System, an electronic voucher and Management Information System that handles the proper generation, printing, distribution and management of vouchers redeemable by farmers. Under this project, farmers are able to redeem their vouchers in exchange for seed inputs by presenting their vouchers to an agro dealer who determines and verifies the validity and worth of each voucher. Upon verifying the voucher using a USSD menu provided by Innovate, the agro dealer captures basic information about the farmer and provides the farmer with seed inputs. Evelyn is a recipient of the Change Agent ABIE Award by the Anita Borg Institute. She is also an Acumen East Africa fellow and also an IDEX fellow.
Hadia Gondji is the Ethiopian Managing Director at Hadia Seed Production, Hadia Flowers and Hadia Supermarket. Hadia is also one of the founders of Enat Bank, the only financial institution in Ethiopia that specifically targets women. Through her businesses Hadia teaches small scale farmers in the country to improve their yields. In a World Economic Forum article Hadia said that, “In Ethiopia, it is still very difficult for women to get into business and politics. Although things are getting better, it remains hard for women to do business, as the environment is not conducive, banks want collateral before giving financial support and women do not own any property. The houses and farms belong to men.” Hadia is also a founding member and President of the Ethiopian Women Exporters Association, which has 300 members. The association assists businesswomen to increase their exports.
*List compiled by Salha Kaitesi.