The BBC has revealed its list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2020.
We are highlighting some of the African women who are leading change and making a difference in the world. Read on
Loza Abera Geinore
Loza Abera Geinore was born and raised in a small town in southern Ethiopia. She played for Hawassa City SC in the Ethiopian Women’s Premier League for two seasons, during which time she became the club’s top goalscorer. She is now a professional footballer and a member of the Ethiopian national women’s team.
Aisha Yesufu is a Nigerian activist demanding good governance in her country. She is co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, launched in response to the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the militant group Boko Haram.
She was also a prominent participant in the “EndSars” protests, during which saw Nigerians take to the streets to demand greater accountability from the Nigerian Police Force, beginning with the dissolution of the controversial Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) members of which have been accused of the murder, rape and robbery of civilians.
Houda Abouz, aka Khtek, is a Moroccan rapper known for her unique style and lyrical songs. She stands up for women’s rights and gender equality. As a Moroccan rapper in a heavily male-dominated industry, Houda considers her music a tool for change.
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE is best known for her Transform Freetown plan, which targets 11 sectors – from tackling environmental degradation and climate change to helping create jobs in order to reduce youth unemployment. During a year in which flooding and fires have affected millions of people internationally, Freetown mayor Aki-Sawyerr has inspired residents to join her campaign to plant one million trees over two years
Nadeen is a philosophy student who believes in social media as a tool for change. She is passionate about spreading knowledge in a way that’s accessible to the general population. Nadeen is the founder of Assault Police, an Instagram account where women in Egypt can share their stories of sexual harassment. Nadeen is now seen within the feminist movement as a linchpin for social change in the fight against sexual harassment.
Four-time Grammy award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today. She has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.
After exploring the roads of Africa’s diaspora in her take on the Talking Heads album Remain in Light, the French-Beninese singer is now investigating the African roots of celebrated icon Celia Cruz, the Cuban-born “Queen of Salsa”. Angelique also advocates on behalf of children as a Unicef ambassador, and through her own charitable foundation, Batonga, which supports the education of young girls in Africa.
Tsitsi is a critically acclaimed writer, film-maker and cultural activist. She has written award-winning books that are regarded as Zimbabwean classics, and her films have screened at festivals across the world, including the Sundance Film Festival. She lives in Harare, working locally with female African film-makers. Tsitsi was among those detained for taking part in civic protests in Zimbabwe this year, with protesters accusing the government of corruption and misgovernance.
Ilwad Elman is a young female leader at the forefront of the Somali peace process and a global authority on ending conflict and reconciling communities. At just 20, she co-founded Somalia’s first rape crisis centre. Over the past decade, Ilwad has become a champion of building peace by giving all those impacted by conflict – particularly women and girls – a chance to contribute.
Mama Maggie Gobran has devoted her life to transforming those of marginalised children in Egypt. Abandoning a life of affluence and a distinguished academic career, she has dedicated all her energy and resources to observing children, washing their feet, and looking into their eyes and telling them that they matter.
Rebeca Gyumi is the founder and executive director at the Msichana Initiative, a local NGO working to advance girls’ rights. She is an advocate for gender equality, and has vast experience working on youth engagement and building women’s movements, and providing advocacy at national and grassroots levels. In 2019, the Msichana Initiative won a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal in Tanzania, which banned child marriages by raising the minimum age to 18.
Uyaiedu Ipke-Etim is a feminist film-maker, director and LGBTQ+ activist, who has committed herself to creating stories about marginalised groups in Nigeria.
Her film Ifẹ́, which means “love” in Yoruba, tells the story of two Nigerian lesbians navigating the harsh, homophobic realities of the country they live in. Following the announcement of the film’s impending release, it has faced state censorship in Nigeria where homosexuality remains an extremely contentious issue.
Mulenga Mpundu Kapwepwe co-founded the Zambian Women’s History Museum, lauded in 2020 for marking Zambian women’s contribution to their nation. She has also built libraries for children in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
She chaired the National Arts Council of Zambia from 2004 until 2017. She has also served as patron for a number of organisations featuring dance, writing, music and culture.
Jemimah Kariuki is deeply passionate about preventive medicine, especially in maternal and child health. She is the founder of the Peace Club, initiated in response to post-election violence in 2007, and the Public Health Club (which is instrumental in running cervical-cancer prevention drives).
Ishtar is a feminist, activist and self-proclaimed “troublemaker”. She is based in South Africa, where she collaborates with social-justice organisations, movements and networks around the world, providing the support needed to strengthen their approaches to human rights advocacy.
Josina Z Machel is a long-standing defender of human rights, born into a legacy of activism. She is fiercely passionate in her life’s calling to advance women’s rights. She holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). A a survivor of domestic violence, she is turning her personal trauma into purpose through the Kuhluka Movement.
Bulelwa Mkutukana is better known by her stage name Zahara. She came from humble beginnings in South Africa and found her love of singing in the school choir. She started her singing career busking on the streets, but in 2011 Zahara’s debut album went double-platinum in less than three weeks.
Douce Namwezi N’Ibamba
Douce Namwezi N’Ibamba is a multimedia journalist and the founder of Uwezo Afrika Initiative, a non-profit venture promoting women’s empowerment through journalism, job training and social entrepreneurship. She fights taboos around menstruation by making sexual education and hygiene kits available to students and women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Vanessa Nakate is a climate activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. She campaigns internationally to highlight the impacts of climate change already occurring in Africa. She focuses particularly on how the climate crisis is exacerbating poverty, conflict and gender inequality.
Dr Ethel Nakimuli-Mpungu, of Makerere University in Uganda, works towards making therapy more culturally appropriate, particularly for people living with HIV and depression. She has developed a highly cost-effective group-therapy programme that can be delivered by lay health workers.
Phyllis Omido is founder and executive director of the Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), advocating the environmental and socio-economic rights of marginalised communities affected by Kenya’s extractive industries. In June 2020 she won an environmental class-action suit with 1.3 billion Kenyan shillings awarded to the Owino Uhuru community, and a further 700 million shillings to the CJGEA.
Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu is an emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London and a patron of the UK Sickle Cell Society. She is a groundbreaking sickle-cell and thalassemia nurse who campaigned for a statue of British-Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole. She’s been a key figure in highlighting the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.
We applaud these women who are at the forefront of championing change in Africa. Keep up the great works.
This blog was originally published on BBC