CNN celebrates Africa’s leading ladies

By IndepthAfrica
In Hottest News
Jun 29th, 2012

African Ladies

On a continent battling extreme gender disparity and inequality toward women in many countries, the world watches intently as remarkable women continue to take the stage in African politics. Over the weekend, CNN program “African Voices” showcased profiles of African women shaping government in their respective countries on their website. Let’s take a look at the leading ladies of Africa:

• Ellen Johnson Sirleaf carried the torch, becoming the first woman to be democratically elected as a head of state in an African country. Elected as president in 2006, the “Iron Lady” stepped up to the task of rebuilding her country after a 14-year civil war, and her political achievements have included a zero-tolerance policy against corruption, and declaring education compulsory and free for all primary-age children. Her work in women’s rights won her a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

• As vice president, Joyce Banda was recently sworn in as the president of Malawi in April 2012, following the death of current president, Bingu wa Mutharika. Following a presidency with abrasive politics and tenuous relationships with aid countries, Banda is stepping to the plate to make amends for her country and its relations.

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• Joyce Mujuru, a mother of four children and former independence rebel, is Zimbabwe’s youngest cabinet member ever, taking the position in 1980 when her country was proclaimed independent from Britain. She has served as one of the two vice presidents of Zimbabwe since 2004 and showed prestige for achievements by awarded the Pride of Africa Women Award and the African Amazon Award.

• Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was Nigeria’s first female finance minister in 2003 and the country’s first female foreign minister in 2006, attacking her country’s debt and political corruption. She began her life in a village in Nigeria’s Delta State and went onto to study at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The global renowned economist has held prominent positions at the World Bank.

• Hellen Zille wears many hats in her country of South Africa. The journalist-turned-political activist is a member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, leader of Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance political party, and the former mayor of Cape Town. Her time in office is marked nothing shy of prolific as she’s had successes in tackling crime, drug abuse and unemployment in Cape Town, and led on women’s civil rights and pro-democracy movements.

• Isatou Njie-Saidy has been the vice president of the Gambia since 1997, and she was the first woman to hold such a senior position in any West African country. Her working career began as a secondary school teacher, but later she would hold office as the minister of health, social welfare and women’s affairs, eventually leading her to become the vice president.

• Luisa Dias Diogo of Mozambique has been recognized on the global platform for her many significant political accomplishments. She was included in TIME Magazine’s 2004 list of the 100 most powerful and influential people in the world, ranked among Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in 2007, and given the Global Women’s Leadership Award in 2008. She was the prime minister of Mozambique from 2004 to 2010, and the first woman in her country to ever hold that position. Prior, she was Mozambique’s minister of finance and planning for five years.

• Rose Mukantabana and other Rwandan women have set quite the precedent, as Rwanda is the only country in the world with more women in parliament than men. Taking office in 2008, Mukantabana is the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in Rwanda.

We applaud these women for breaking the tremendous gender divide to become inspiring role models and great leaders for their countries and the world. Please join us in congratulating them by leaving a message in the comment section below.

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