In the fight for equality and justice for women, several women have stood strong and championed this cause. We have put together a list of women that have been at the forefront in Africa over the years. These 10 women are championing the Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender equality and have stood up for the rights of women in Africa. Scroll down to read
Founder of the UN’s HeForShe campaign
Elizabeth Nyamayaro is a senior advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General and executive director of UN Women. She is the mastermind behind the United Nations HeForShe – a global solidarity movement for gender equality. The movement engages all genders, and in particular men and boys to take action in ending gender inequality.
Born in Zimbabwe and a Political Scientist by training, Nyamayaro is a strong advocate for women’s rights and economic empowerment and has worked at the forefront of Africa’s development agenda for more than two decades in both the public and private sector, and previously held positions with UNAIDS, World Health Organization and the World Bank.
Founder of MsAfropolitan
Minna Salami is a Nigerian, Finnish and Swedish writer, feminist theorist and lecturer. She is the founder of the award-winning blog, MsAfropolitan, which connects feminism with contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective and the author of Sensuous Knowledge.
Minna is listed alongside Angelina Jolie and Michelle Obama as one of 12 women changing the world by ELLE Magazine. She is a contributor to the Guardian, BBC, CNN, The Independent, Al Jazeera, the New Internationalist and many other publications. She is a columnist for the Guardian Nigeria and the host of a monthly philosophy book club at Waterstones.
Executive Director, FEMNET
Memory Kachambwa is a women’s rights activist with 18 years of experience in roles that focus on issues in gender and development, human rights, and women’s empowerment. She is currently the executive director of FEMNET, a pan-African feminist based network that promotes the sharing of ideas, experiences, and information strategies for equality among African women’s organizations. Her previous roles include Gender and Economic Empowerment specialist at the International Youth Foundation, executive director of the Women’s Trust in Zimbabwe, and eight years in various positions at the UN.
Melene Cynthia Rossouw
Founder of the Women Lead Movement
Melene Cynthia Rossouw is an attorney with twelve years of experience in the legal, governmental, and non-governmental sectors. She is the founder of the Women Lead Movement, an organization that promotes social empowerment initiatives in local communities. The Women Lead Movement aims to educate and advocate for social and political change by utilizing the constitution and international human rights legislation as a tool for development.
Melene is also an advocate for gender equality and through Women Lead Movement programs also educates communities on women’s rights and gender-based violence. Melene holds a master’s degree in Public and Constitutional Law from the University of the Western Cape. She is an inaugural Obama Foundation Leader in Africa, a Future Africa Forum on governance contributor, and a spokeswoman for the global campaign on gender equality by the ONE Foundation. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Melene plans to continue her work educating communities on the constitution by establishing women community forums as a vehicle for coordinated community action.
Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa
Toyin Saraki is the Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA). Toyin Saraki is a Nigerian leader and advocate for women’s and children’s health, as well as socio-economic empowerment. She has actively participated in over two decades of advocacy and philanthropy, covering reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH); ending gender-based discrimination and violence, and improving education and sustainable livelihoods.
Through WBFA, and working with a broad range of partners that include the United Nations, the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health, and the organized private sector, Toyin Saraki has demonstrated leadership on the advancement of reproductive health, including encouraging more access to family planning through community health workers and midwives.
CEO and Founder of the NGO “Safe Hands for Girls”
Renowned activist Jaha Dukureh was appointed Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa in February 2018. Herself a survivor of FGM, and forced into child marriage at age 15. Ms Dukureh dedicates her efforts to support UN Women’s advocacy to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in Africa, with a focus on mobilizing youth.
Ms Dukureh is the CEO and Founder of the NGO “Safe Hands for Girls” that provides support to African women and girls who are survivors of FGM and addresses its lifelong, harmful physical and psychological consequences. Alongside women’s organizations and civil society, she contributed to the Gambian Government’s ban on FGM after youth mobilization and campaigning in the country
Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe
Pan-African feminist, Founder of Eyala
Françoise Moudouthe is a Pan-African feminist with roots in Cameroon. She is passionate about advocating for women’s rights and fostering sisterhood within African feminist movements. She is the founder of Eyala, a bilingual platform that amplifies the voices and lived experiences of African feminists.
Having played an instrumental role in incubating Girls Not Brides, the global civil society partnership to end child marriage, and in spearheading its growth in Africa. Françoise has most recently worked as an international consultant, focusing on strategy, advocacy and movement-building for gender justice in Africa. She is a Board member of the Malala Fund and Womankind Worldwide.
She was recently appointed as the incoming CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund.
Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng
Board chairwoman, African Women’s Development Fund USA
Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng, M.A. Born and raised in Ghana, Maame is a consultant on international development, gender and leadership. She has worked as a Program Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) at the Global Fund for Women and is Board Member and co-chair of the Bay Area Regional Advisory Committee for African Women’s Development Fund, USA (AWDF-USA).
Maame is actively involved with the Global Women’s Leadership Network as a graduate and coordinates the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa program. She was the Africa Program Director for Women’s Earth Alliance, a program of Earth Island Institute. In addition to being a committed advocate and passionate leader, Maame is a dynamic singer and recording artist. She just released her second album, called Ekome. Maame holds a Masters Degree in Human Rights, Gender and International Policy Studies from Monterey Institute of International studies.
African Feminist, Founder of ZeroByZawadi
Zawadi Nyong’o is an African feminist digital native, working as a free agent to use her non-profit experience, creativity, social media skills, extensive global networks, fundraising expertise, spirituality, passion & fire for social justice to create the world I want to see. Everything she does is geared towards social change. Most of her work currently focuses on but is not limited to: sexual and reproductive rights and health; feminist resource mobilization; disability rights; social media for change; and young women’s movement building.
She has served as an advisor to a number of women-focused initiatives including Akili Dada; Mother Health International. She has contributed to Africa’s dynamic sexual rights movements through research, publications, training, movement building, and resource mobilization and is a regular speaker on these topics. She is the author of “When I Dare To Be Powerful” a first-of-its-kind collection of short stories of women engaged in sex work in East Africa. She also runs her blog Digital Ubuntu Africa which is a platform to help cultivate responsible digital citizenship in Africa.
Founding Coordinator, FRIDA, and Board Member, Global Fund for Women.
Amina Doherty is a founding member and coordinator of FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, an organization that aims to strengthen the capacity of young feminist organizations around the world through small grants. Previously, Amina was the Director of Tactics at AWID (The Association for Women’s Rights in Development). She has worked with a diverse range of clients including governments, international NGOs, community-led groups, and individual philanthropists.
Currently, Amina is the Program Director of the Caribbean Women’s Voice and Leadership program at the MATCH International Women’s Fund. She also serves as a Caribbean advisor to Mama Cash, the first international women’s fund in the world, and has worked with the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a feminist grantmaking foundation based in Ghana
We commend these women for lending their voices in support of women’s rights and empowering women. They are indeed change-makers in Africa and also through the African Diaspora.
At Leading Ladies Africa, we recognise your works. Keep being an inspiration to other African women.