BY Deborah Dzifa Makafui, 1:34pm September 17, 2022,

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About

Photo Credit: U.S. Institute of Peace

It would appear, that the very many years of social advocacy for gender-equity and women’s representation on Africa’s economic and political landscape is beginning to pay off, albeit modest. The African woman today has a voice, and applies herself to various fields of endeavor. The times show promise; global climate movement is being energized, social safeguards for women are taken seriously, there is sustained effort at eliminating the scourge of COVID-19 and institutional gender discrimination.

Much remains to be done to close the widening gender pay gap. 15% of CEOs on the Fortune 500 list in America are female. And, the evidence shows that companies with a high percentage of women on their boards perform better than those who don’t.

Women may not always see their full potential in today’s environment, but once they do, they have a clear path to success. For women, leading with sound principles entail redefining what success and value mean, sharing power and credit, creating a sense of community, forging connections and, ultimately addressing the underlying causes of the oppressive systems and social norms that impede progress for everyone, but more so for women and girls.

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About
Nana Aba Appiah Amfo — Photo Credit: Sottie STAK

Nana Aba Appiah Amfo

Ghanaian linguist and current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Nana Aba Appiah Amfo was born on September 30, 1971. She served as the pro-vice-chancellor for academics and student affairs at the University of Ghana in West Africa prior to her appointment. 

Amfo was the first dean of the school of languages (2014–19) before she was named the academic and student affairs pro-vice-chancellor in November 2019. She also previously oversaw the department of linguistics (2013-14). Amfo has contributed to the governance of the University of Ghana by serving on a number of statutory and special committees and boards. She holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and is a professor. degrees from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, as well as an MPhil.

Through several professional engagements in nations across Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia, Amfo has amassed vast multicultural experience. She has organized and facilitated a number of capacity-building training programs in the public and private higher education sectors, as well as in other public and private organizations, due to her love for mentoring, particularly of younger professional women.

She has also built a name for herself in her field as president of the Linguistics Association of Ghana and assistant secretary-general of the Federation of Modern Languages and Literatures, a scholarly organization associated with UNESCO (2010-14). She belongs to the Society for Communication, Medicine, and Ethics as well as the West African Linguistic Society. Amfo is a fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service, the Commonwealth Professionals Fellowships, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the esteemed International Women’s Forum Leadership Program. She is also the co-founder and acting president of the African Pragmatics Association.  

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About
Meaza Ashenafi — Photo Credit: Rtekleab

Meaza Ashenafi

Meaza Ashenafi, who co-founded the Ethiopian Women’s Lawyers Association (EWLA) with other progressive young female lawyers, is the country’s first female Chief Justice and a trailblazer in several fields, particularly for legal activism. She was the lone female graduate from her class at Addis Ababa University’s law school, and as a criminal court judge, she had the opportunity to observe firsthand how legislation discriminated against women. 

“When we established EWLA 20 years ago, we accomplished groundbreaking work in order to overturn discriminatory laws like family law, citizenship law, and pension law. Because there were no words to express it at the time, we introduced the terms “Sexual Abuse” and “Sexual Harassment” into the Amharic language.

In addition, Chief Justice Meaza co-established Enat Bank with other female businesswomen after realizing there was a dearth of financial support for women. Enat Bank was the first bank in Ethiopia to be founded by a female majority shareholder. 

She asserts, “For me, leadership is having a vision and working to realize it. Despite the pressure from society and those who tell them otherwise, women need to have confidence in their ability to accomplish anything they set out to do. Only when you have confidence in yourself can you be a force for change.

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About
Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi — Photos Credit: Anny Robert

Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi 

Nigerian entrepreneurs Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi are rising stars in the feminist movement. Both just appeared on the TIME Next 100 list for February 2021 and the Bloomberg 50 list of those who influenced the world of business in 2020. 

The Feminist Coalition, which promotes women’s rights and safety, economic empowerment, and political engagement of women in Nigeria, was founded in 2020 as a result of the collaboration of Odufuwa and Eweniyi. In 2020, the organization launched its first project, a food drive for low-income women and their families, and backed the #EndSARS protests that swept over Nigeria.

According to Eweniyi, “a feminist leader will acknowledge that all women and all men deserve equal opportunity to achieve successful jobs and lives, and put institutions in place to enable people live up to their potential and bring about significant change. Odufuwa says, “A feminist leader is sympathetic and recognizes the significance of intersectionality. 

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About
Farida Charity — Photo Credit: Farida Charity

Farida Charity

A 36-year-old peace activist and community leader in Northern Uganda‘s Yumbe district, which has been ravaged by conflict, is Farida Charity. 

Charity began her start in activism when she was just a young girl and took part in the peace talks with the Uganda National Rescue Front that resulted in a formal cease-fire between the rebels and the government in 2002. Charity currently serves as the Yumbe District Council’s speaker. She has been advocating for policies that support amicable coexistence between the refugee and host populations in the district for the past five years, as well as for health services for women and girls. 

As the head of the Council’s Women Caucus, Charity organized other female executives to launch mentoring programs centered on reducing sexual and gender-based violence, handling conflict, and keeping girls in school. It is aimed at school-age girls from a host and refugee communities.

5 African Women Leaders You Should Know About
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Photo Credit: U.S. Institute of Peace

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 

As the first democratically elected woman president of Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf oversaw Liberia’s post-decade civil war healing and reconstruction as well as its response to the Ebola Crisis of 2014–2015. She has received praise on a global scale for the political, social, and economic accomplishments of her government, and in 2011 she was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to advance women’s rights.

The expansion of women’s political participation and involvement in decision-making processes is a cause that Sirleaf is a powerful advocate for today.  She is the first female head of state in Africa who was elected democratically. When Johnson Sirleaf took office in 2005, the nation experienced peace and economic growth. She increased the rights of women, widened the scope of free expression, and set a good example for other African leaders.

The rise of female leaders has the potential to transform into a positive centrifugal force. For the first time, we are witnessing instances of female leaders from many generations coming together to share their knowledge and passion for change. It is significant that ambitious and competent women are now leading powerful organizations that can spur physical change through technology and legislation. A good illustration is the current development in the circular economy in Africa.

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 17, 2022


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