Musimbi Kanyoro (b. 1953)
is a human rights advocate from Kenya. She is the President and CEO of the
Global Fund for Women, positions she has held since 2011.
She studied in
her native Kenya and in the United States. In 1998 she became the first woman
to serve as World Secretary General for the YWCA, an organisation which seeks
to empower women and girls worldwide. She is involved in many other human
rights organisations, such as the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice
and the World Health Organization.
Lotfia Elnadi (b.
1907-2002) was the first woman not only in her native country of Egypt, but in
the whole Arab world and the continent of Africa, to earn a pilot’s license.
She achieved this in 1933.
flight lessons while keeping it a secret from her father, who expected her to
follow a traditional path in life of becoming a housewife. Instead, she made
international headlines for her achievement, and inspired generations of other
women to take up aviation.
Marguerite Barankitse (b. 1957) is a prominent
human rights activist from Burundi. She received numerous international awards
for her work focused on improving the lives of children and combatting ethnic
she created Maison Shalom, or the House of Peace, which over the years grew to
house more than 20 thousand orphaned children of all ethnic origins. Later, she
founded the Community Center Oasis of Peace, where she offers, among others,
psychological support to rape victims or vocational training.
Kalima (1972-2018) was a politician from the African nation of Zambia. She
served on the National Assembly for Kasenengwa, as well as in the role of
Minister of Gender.
Throughout her political career, she was concerned with issues of human rights
and gender equality in particular. She also worked to outlaw child marriages in
Ahmed Ibrahim (1933-2017) was an author and women’s rights activist from Sudan. She won
the UN Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Field of Human Rights in 1993.
Her activism began very early, in her school
days, when she created a newspaper called Pioneer
Girls. She conducted the first women’s strike in Sudan when her school
decided to replace science classes with so-called ‘family science’ lessons.
Throughout her career, she worked to obtain the right to vote for Sudanese
women, as well as gender equality in the workforce.
Hassiba Boulmerka (b. 1968) is a former Algerian athlete. She won a total of eight medals, five of which were gold, in prominent international competitions.
She won the 1500 m race at the 1991 World Championships, becoming the first African woman to win a world title in athletics. In 1992 she won Algeria’s first ever gold medal at the Olympics.
Samia Nkrumah (b. 1960) is the
chairperson of the Convention People’s Party in Ghana. She is the first woman
in the country to head a major political party.
She studied at the University of
London before returning to Ghana to head the CCP and continue its tradition of
upholding women’s rights in the country. She co-founded the organisation Africa Must Unite and was named ‘the new
Mandela’ by the Huffington Post.
Daphne Sheldrick (1934-2018) was an expert in animal husbandry. She dedicated her life and career to rescuing orphan baby elephants and reintegrating them into the wild.
She was born and educated in Kenya, and was warden of the Tsavo National Park, where she helped care for a variety of wildlife. She was the first to perfect the milk formula necessary to sustain baby elephants and rhinos. In 1977, she founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, now the world’s most successful rescue and rehabilitation programme for elephants.
Rawya Ateya (1926-1997) is an important figure in Egyptian politics and feminism. She was the first woman parliamentarian in the Arab world, elected in 1957.
She was an officer in the Liberation Army during the Suez War, and trained thousand of women in first aid and nursing. During her tenure in the National Assembly she focused on women’s rights, fighting to pass laws that would give more freedom to Egyptian women.
Jeanne Martin Cissé (1926-2017) was a Guinean diplomat. She was the first woman to serve as President of the United Nations Security Council.
She was one of the first female teachers in Guinea, and in 1962 became the Secretary General of the Pan African Women’s Organization. She served as the first female Vice President of the National Assembly of Guinea, and later as the chair of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid.