The historical moment of Sahle-Work Zewde being appointed as the first woman President of Ethiopia in 2018 gave rise to an increased hope of more women being elected in key structures of society.
On the 57th annual Africa Day celebration, we look back at how far the continent has come with women leadership on the presidential level. While we still have a long way to go, these are the women who have served their countries as president.
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Not only is she the first woman in Ethiopia to be appointed as president but she was also the first women to be appointed as the Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union of the UN United Nations secretary general.
She was born in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and according to the UN biography she is a natural sciences graduate from the University of Montpellier in France. After graduating, she served as Ethiopia's ambassador to France, Djibouti, Senegal and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, according to this Aljazeera article.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
In 2011, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received a Nobel Peace Prize for her role as the president of Liberia. The motivation for her Prize was for her "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."
Her biography for the Nobel Prize notes that in 2005 she was the first female head of state to be democratically elected in Africa.
Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is currently serving as the Prime Minister of Namibia. She was invited to join the Council of Women World Leaders along with Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi and Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and other women leaders.
Her biography on the United Nations Foundation website notes that Prime Minister Saara was conferred the Most Brilliant Order of the Sun, Second Class in Namibia.
In 2013, Aminata Toure was appointed as Prime Minister of Senegal. This profile article on her on the Guardian website says Aminata was known for far-reaching anti-corruption campaigns and has been an activist since her adolescent years.
Joyce Banda, was sworn in as President of the Republic of Malawi in April, 2012 and held office up to May 2014. Before this she was the deputy president of Malawi from 2009 to April 2012.
In 2014 Joyce was named the 40th most powerful woman. Forbes wrote, “Banda's most brazen decisions have been for austerity's sake. She sold off a $15 million presidential jet, cut her own salary by 30 percent and dismissed her cabinet in the midst of corruption allegations. Her bookkeeping measures have helped lift monetary suspensions from Western donors to Malawi and restore cash injections from the IMF.”
Luisa Dias Diogo
Luisa Dias Diogo’s biography in the Council of Women World Leaders notes that, in 2004, Luisa became the first woman Prime Minister of Mozambique – during which she focused her efforts on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The biography also says she served as head of Mozambique’s Finance Industry and Director of the National Budget, a World Bank program officer and Deputy Finance Minister.
Mame Madior Boye
Jeune Afrique describes the powerhouse as not being one for the public eye. The magazine says Mame Madior Boye was the first woman to be Prime Minister in Senegal and never displayed any partisan affiliation in politics.
Who are your favourite women in power? Tell us here.
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