Women in Africa You Should Know About

Cynthia Chacala and Cecília Ngabo are representing WISE Initiative's first chapter in Mozambique.


Ellen Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, born on October 29th, 1938, was a Liberian economist and politician who became the first elected female president of Liberia and the first female president in Africa.

Johnson Sirleaf's journey into presidency began when she ran in 1997 against Charles Taylor. She lost second to Taylor and was forced into exile when his government charged her with treason. In 2003, she returned to Liberia and in 2005 she ran for president and vowed to end civil strife and corruption, establish unity and rebuild the country’s devastated infrastructure. In January 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as the president of Liberia.

By late 2010, she managed to erase Liberia’s debt and secured millions of dollars in foreign investments.

Did we also mention that in 2011, Madam President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? How amazing and inspiring is that! Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s life reminds us of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”.


Glenda Gray

Born on December 14 1962, Professor Glenda Elisabeth Gray is a South African pediatrician, medical researcher, and activist. Since the age of six, Professor Gray has wanted to become a doctor.

The professor began to specialise in paediatrics and started an HIV preventative community education project. By the time she completed her studies in 1993, HIV had become the most common cause of death at the huge hospital in Soweto where she worked. In 2001, Gray became part of the Treatment Action Campaign team which filed a lawsuit against the government, that then refused to acknowledge that HIV caused AIDS, demanding the right of treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women.

Professor Gray has been awarded quite a number of awards including the “Outstanding African Scientist Award” and “Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights”. She’s also been recognized by TIME as one the 100 most influential people.

When asked about what she would like to be remembered for, Glenda said: “For finding an HIV vaccine. If I could achieve anything, it would be to be known among the many scientists who failed and failed and failed, and eventually succeeded in finding a vaccine for HIV”.

So inspiring it brings a tear to our eyes (of joy of course).






Samia Suluhu Hassan

Samia Hassan, best known as “Mama Sima” was born on January 27th, 1960, is a member of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in Tanzania. She is currently the sixth president in ruling, yet the first elected female president of Tanzania as well as the third female elected president in the continent of Africa. Her presence was distinguishable as she had established her position as vice president under the ruling of John Magufuli, becoming ruling partners, and rose to power by the time of his death.

Looks like Beyoncé was right, women do run the world.


Aya Chebbi

Aya Chebbi, born in 1988 is a Tunisian Diplomat, a pan african and feminist activist. Chebbi holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Tunis El Manar and a Master’s degree in African Studies with Distinction from SOAS University of London. Chebbi started as a political blogger. But, had her big break during 2010/2011 Tunisia’s revolution. In her writings, she stood as a voice for democracy and this made her attract international recognition. She travels across the African continent to support and train thousands of social movement leaders and activists on mobilization, blogging, leadership, and non-violence as well as she embraces her journey and experiences as a scholar, mentor, speaker, and activist. Aya Chebbi has received the 2019 Gates Foundation Campaign Award and has been named in Forbes’ Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women and New African Magazine List of 100 Most Influential Africans.

Aya Chebbi has worked in refugee camps during the Libyan revolution, she was a youth speaker at the United Nations Women’s 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. She served as the first ever African Union Special Envoy on Youth and the youngest diplomat at the African Union Commission Chairperson’s Cabinet and among all of her accomplishments and occupations, she is also an advocate for peace.


So there you have it, four women who have worked hard and persevered in the face of adversity. Their groundbreaking work is inspiring and hopefully it motivates you to go out and achieve your dreams. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next first female president of your country, just like Samia Hassan or Ellen Sirleaf.




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