Throughout the world, some women aspire to make a difference. Even Africa is not exempt. In the African continent, the role of women is increasingly changing. Women graduate, work and achieve great results, driven by the aspiration of making the difference. Behind this huge process of changing, ordinary girls and women are becoming the driving force of a major revolution.
This important process starts with basics, from education and studying. Thanks to instruction, the woman becomes independent and able to make decisions. Indeed, education is one of the decisive factors to make an individual more educated and stronger. The resulting respect is one of the main achievements.
Ochola Pamella, a Ugandan woman that pulled his life together, told to Vanity Fair in an interview last February: “When I was a child I saw my mother, housewife, completely depend on my father. I grew up promising myself that my future would be different. This is the reason why I am so favourable to girls’ education”. Pamella has two daughters: she left them to her mother while she’s finishing her Paediatrics studies, to save thousands of children from malaria and other diseases affecting the country.
Being a woman, today more than ever, is a challenge in the challenge and women getting busy to overcome it are more and more. But especially social taboos, rooted in families and traditions, counter their efforts. Often, parents think it isn’t necessary to educate their daughters. Sister Angioletta, another woman interviewed by Vanity Fair, is today one of the directors of nursing services of her village, but first she had to fight for a long time. “When I told my parents I wanted to be a nurse, my father was criticized by the entire village. The pressure was so heavy my sister and I move in with an uncle who really believed in female education”.
However, instruction and education are not the only elements towards which focus attention. Some countries live every day serious problems such as hunger, poverty, repression, war, diseases and more.
Now things are slowly changing, but although the process of change is still long and difficult, women of today seem to want to relentless fight for a better tomorrow. Great difficulties make many women understand that the future is saying “no” to suffering and “yes” to life.
Some of them became stars because of the bold challenges they carry on. Let’s acknowledge some of them.
A familiar face is known all over the world is that of Lupita Nyong’o, a young actress with Kenyan roots, who in 2014 won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for her performance in the movie “12 years a slave” by Steve McQueen. She appeared in blockbuster movies: Star Wars: The Force awakens (2015), Queen of Katwe (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and Black Panther (2018). In April 2014, People magazine appointed her as the “most beautiful woman in the world”, and in 2015 debuted on Broadway with the role of the female lead in theatre’s production Eclipsed. Moreover, besides her acting career, Lupita is also a director, dubber and film producer.
Angélique Kidjo, from Benin, has a powerful and eclectic voice, she is a civil rights activist and has inherited the name of “Mama Africa”. Her last album “Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music”, dedicated to African women and celebrating a career of success, is a tribute to any woman who’s going to fight and win something in life. Today Angélique Kidjo splits her time between concerts, recording studios and humanitarian efforts in favour of UNICEF.
Noella Musunka Coursaris, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a model who alternates haute couture shows in New York and Paris and humanitarian missions in the poorest villages of Congo. In her home country, she also created the Malaika Foundation to sustain women in need. Most of her money has been invested in schools and social initiatives.
Solange Lusiku Nsimire is another Congolese woman, a 42 years old fearless journalist, with six children to take care of, who fights every day for freedom of the press. She is founder, editor and director of Le Souverain, the only newspaper of her province. Because of her activism, she received several threats and intimidations to discourage her, but they didn’t work. She thinks that fighting for the freedom of press and expression is a way to reach better kindness.
Leymah Gbowee, a woman of many fights in Liberia, in 2011 received the Nobel Peace Prize together with two other women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia President, and Tawakkul Karman, Yemeni pacifist. After studying in the US, Leymah came back to Liberia and her life was dominated and devastated by the civil war (1989-2003), a long and bloodiest conflict which took away from her parents and friends, but dreams and hopes, too. A young mother of six, and wife of an abusive husband, Leymah decided to engage in humanitarian activities and favour of peace. Together with Comfort Freeman, she founded Wipnet Association, involved in peacebuilding. This Association was instrumental in ending the conflict in Liberia, and it also paved the way for the election of the first female President of Liberia: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2003, the most dramatic moment of the civil war, Nobel established and directed the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, implementing a series of public and non-violent initiatives for the liberation from oppression.
Another brave activist is Obiageli Ezekwesili. Former Minister of education and Vice-President of the World Bank, she faced first-hand a shocking event that hit her country, Nigeria. The night of April 14, 2014, 270 female students were kidnapped by some terrorists that attacked a school in northern Nigeria. Obiageli, given her interest for human right and her role as founder of anti-corruption association Transparency International, made an appeal online: “Bring back our girls”. A few seconds later, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral and became the slogan of a global mobilisation campaign of civil society. Obiageli has the credit for bringing the case in the limelight of the international media and for putting pressure on the Nigerian Government. Thanks to her, many of the girls were realised, while the struggle continues for the other girls, still prisoners in unknown places.
Fatou Bensouda, Gambian jurist and mother of three children, at the age of 52, in 2012, was elected as State’s attorney of the International Criminal Court. With her office, Fatou represented the first African woman to take on such an important role in international justice. Thus, from The Hague tribunal (in the past accused of being “at the service of the white western man”) the Gambian jurist resolutely prosecutes genocides and war crimes.
Lalla Salma, Princess bride of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, is the first wife of a Moroccan sovereign to be publicly recognized with an honorary title. At the age of 41, she made the royal family of Morocco one of the most modern of Africa, by playing and wearing sneakers with her baby, Lalla Khadija; attending in disguise New York fashion shows and hanging out with Letizia of Spain and Bernadette Chirac, but mostly understanding of being the centre of a subtle exercise of power. Accused of only taking care of charity and attend royal events, she proved that now the circumstances have changed: “We women are the future of Africa”, she claimed a few years ago to a UN summit, upsetting some African and Islamic leaders. Lalla Salma doesn’t talk politics, but she learned how to witness it. Her emancipation, her values and fights she leads contribute to the development of a country which is becoming one of the most modern of Maghreb.
Italian version by Sofia Abourachid
Translated by Elisabetta Castellotti