Before international recognition, before global campaigns, there were these remarkable African women. They’ve dedicated their lives to empower, uplift, and protect the rights of girls across the continent. Their passion and dedication inspire us, and today on International Day of The Girl Child, we are throwing a spotlight on seven African women, and the incredible work they do to advance girls’ rights.
1. Zuriel Oduwole
Zuriel Oduwole, an American education advocate and filmmaker, is renowned for her dedication to promoting girls’ education in Africa. Her advocacy work earned her a profile in Forbes in the summer of 2013, making her the youngest person ever featured in the magazine at the age of 10. At just 12 years old in November 2014, Zuriel achieved another remarkable feat by becoming the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited film screened. Her film was showcased in two movie chains and later in Ghana, England, South Africa, and Japan.
2. Memory Banda
Memory Banda, a Malawian children’s rights activist, gained global recognition for her relentless efforts against child marriage. She successfully advocated for raising the legal age of marriage in Malawi from 15 to 18 years. However, her primary focus remains on enforcing this law and empowering girls. Memory founded Malawi’s Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) and Let Girls Lead community groups, promoting girls’ education and rights. She also collaborated on a storytelling project where young girls shared their experiences and dreams through various art forms.
3. Josephine Kulea
Josephine Kulea is a dedicated advocate for girls’ rights from Kenya. She herself was saved from female genital mutilation and forced marriage during her childhood. In response, she founded the Samburu Girls Foundation, an organization that has successfully rescued over 1,000 girls from facing similar harrowing experiences. Kulea’s unwavering commitment to this cause earned her the well-deserved recognition as an “unsung heroine” by US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger.
4. Zawadi Nyong’o
Zawadi, based in Kenya, is a youth advocate who has been actively involved in initiatives promoting girls’ rights and ending gender-based violence. As a digital media strategist and a passionate advocate for Girls’ Rights, Zawadi specializes in crafting, executing, and bolstering social media strategies aimed at stimulating discussions, rallying citizen engagement, and uniting voices to drive change and progress, both within Africa and globally. Her expertise has been instrumental in leading and supporting numerous successful Girl-focused online initiatives, such as #WaremboNiYes, #NereasVoice, #TakeBackTheTech, #BustTheMyths, and #1BillionRising. She was the mastermind behind Kenya’s groundbreaking crowdfunding campaign, #1MilliForJadudi, a campaign that earned her recognition with a social media award.
5. Lady Juliet Nyarko Adansi
She is a young African leader focused on gender and youth advocacy. Previously, she served as the regional leader for Girl Up United Nations Foundation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana from 2020 to 2023 and was a member of the Girl Up Climate, Sustainability and Gender Equality Action Group that won the Our Future Agenda and United Nations Foundation-led Unlock the Future Coalition in 2022 during the Big Pitch. She has received several awards and honorary nominations for her role in promoting girls rights in Africa. For the International Women’s Day 2023, she was listed among the 50 African Women in Development by Donors for Africa to acknowledge her efforts towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Africa through her developmental initiatives and programs.
6. Musonda Chikwanda
She is the region director of Girl Up Africa and is dedicated to working on girls, youth, and women leadership development programs. She has developed and implemented girls, youth, and women advocacy programs and has a demonstrated history of training and mentoring adolescent girls on advocacy for Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, Gender Based Violence, Self-Defence and Boundary Setting and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
7. Ebenye Veronica Mbakwa
She is a medical doctor and a Sexual and Reproductive Health activist from Cameroon, whose goal is to democratize access to reproductive health products for girls using digital technology. She has worked with organizations like UN women, Body Talk, Tech Women to facilitate Gender and Reproductive Rights projects and conversations.