Even prior to watching Black Panther (whose portrayal of black women as being bold and beautiful leaders absolutely moved me), I have been inspired by my black, African mothers and sisters. The month of March (as all months of the year should) celebrates women through the International Women’s Day.In this spirit, and further fueled by the ongoing women’s revolution on various fronts these last years, it fits to share the wisdom of bold black African women who have received global recognition. As Africa continues to develop incredibly fast and exponentially, it is important that we continually highlight the efforts of all bold African women(old and young, sung and unsung) towards this economic, political and social growth.
The five women below therefore represent wisdom from an Africa unashamedly and proudly black, but above all boldly female!
1.Prof. Wangari Maathai (1994-2011)
Global recognition: Widely known for her struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation in Kenya.
Education: Ph.D., Anatomy, University of Nairobi (1971), M.S., Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, USA (1966)
Awards: Nobel Peace Laureate (2004)-among so many others!
“A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance. It is a reminder to all of us who have had success that we cannot forget where we came from. It signifies that no matter how powerful we become in government or how many awards we receive, our power and strength and our ability to reach our goals depend on the people, those whose work remain unseen, who are the soil out of which we grow, the shoulders on which we stand”
Global Recognition: Initially known for her TED Talks: The Danger of A Single Story and We should all be Feminists, widely known for her books: Americanah and We should all be Feminists
Education: Masters in Creative Writing, John Hopkins University
Awards: 2008 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant-among so many others!
“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
Global Recognition: Best known for being the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.
Education: Yale School of Drama, Yale University
Awards: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress–among many others to come following her INCREDIBLE role as Nakia in Black Panther!
“No matter where you are from your dreams are valid.”
― Lupita Nyong’o
Nickname: “Ma Ellen”
Global Recognition: Widely known for being the First female president in Africa (Liberian President,2006-2018)
Education: Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government
Awards: Nobel Peace Laureate (2011)-among so many others!
“Why are some countries able, despite their very real and serious problems, to press ahead along the road to reconciliation, recovery, and redevelopment while others cannot? These are critical questions for Africa, and their answers are complex and not always clear. Leadership is crucial, of course. Kagame was a strong leader–decisive, focused, disciplined, and honest–and he remains so today. I believe that sometimes people’s characters are molded by their environment. Angola, like Liberia, like Sierra Leone, is resource-rich, a natural blessing that sometimes has the sad effect of diminishing the human drive for self-sufficiency, the ability and determination to maximize that which one has. Kagame had nothing. He grew up in a refugee camp, equipped with only his own strength of will and determination to create a better life for himself and his countrymen. ”
― Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President
This list is barely a taste of the richness of female role models dwelling within my continent. In her book, We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Adichie points out that we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. That they should aim to be successful, but not too successful. These 4 women above are neither shrinking nor making themselves smaller, their ambition is globally acknowledged and their success is phenomenal. This is the portrayal of being African and female that I hope young African girls and boys grow up being inspired by!