2017 is coming to an end 😪

It has been a year filled with ups and downs, but what year isn't? I want to ensure that we end 2017 on a good note.
UN Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa
My vision of 2018 is to see more young Africans developing an interest in their country of origin's history, culture and fundamental issues, and to take action upon this new-found knowledge.   

Thus, I would like to bring 2017 to a close with some amazing African women and their achievements, that could hopefully influence you and make you feel optimistic of the days to come.  

Sophia Abdi Noor

She is a founding member of the organisation 'Womankind Kenya' in which they address issues of Education, Sustainable Livelihood, Water Sanitation and Health, Women Empowerment, Good Governance and Emergency Interventions. She has dedicated her life to fighting for women's rights and also targeting traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She has run to have a seat in Parliament in 1997 and 2013 however, would lose to her male opponents due to the traditional gender roles upheld in North Eastern Kenya, in which a woman as a leader is frowned upon. However, in the elections of 2017, she was victorious as the first woman in North Eastern Kenya to be elected into Parliament. 

Vera Songwe

In April 2017, Vera Songwe was appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa. She is the first woman to be appointed to this position. She started out as a Young Professional in the World Bank and gradually made her way up and has demonstrated a clear and strategic vision for our continent. Further demonstrating her dedication to a progressive Africa, she is also a member of the African Leadership Network, in which they believe that 'developing strong leadership is the most powerful lever for transforming Africa'. 

Vanessa Moungar

The African Development Bank appointed Vanessa Moungar as the Director of Gender, Women and Civil SocietyPresident Akinwumi Adesina commented on the appointment saying that: "Vanessa brings great experience, extensive global networks and dedication to the agenda on entrepreneurship for women and youth. She also represents our commitment to getting younger leadership at the Bank. I am delighted she is joining our team." Her experiences enable her to bring forward policy frameworks to empower, educate and employ African women.

Prof. Ruth Oniang’o 

Professor Ruth Oniang'o, a leading academic expert in Food Security and Nutrition, promotes the cultivation of traditional crops and is the founder of Rural Outreach Africa. She has raised money to support 30,000 small farmers in Kenya, a majority of whom are women. Ruth Oniang'o was the first female Nutrition professor in Kenya and has influenced the development of Nutrition training in Kenya, and even extended to other countries in Africa. She also founded and edits the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) and encourages young scholars with an interest in this field to research and produce a piece of writing for it. She is an incredible woman and I would invite you to look into her initiatives, as well as her work serving in Kenya's 9th Parliament (she demonstrates the impact of having a female voice as well as her dedication to addressing famine).  Her amazing work resulted in receiving the 2017 Africa Food Prize

Dr Sahar Nasr

Dr Sahar Nasr became the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt in February 2017. Her achievements make her incredibly suited to this role such as her work during her academic career, which resulted in her papers and reports being published in scientific periodicals including those of Cambridge and Oxford University in the UK, Berkley University in the US and in the World Bank. Due to her role as Lead Economist at the World Bank, she has gained experience in negotiating and securing international grants and loans. 

Haben Girma

Haben Girma is a disability-rights activist. She is the first Deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School. One of her most memorable cases was a lawsuit brought against a company for failing to provide the required access for blind readers, in which the firm she worked for won the case. She has brought forward accessibility and diversity training, consulting and professional speaking services, and aiding disabled children in education. Overall, her hard work and determination is truly inspiring. 
"When my grandmother took my brother to a school in East Africa, they told her that deaf-blind children can’t go to school. There was simply no chance. When my family moved to the U.S. and I was also born deaf-blind, they were amazed by the opportunities afforded by ADA. ... For my grandmother back in Africa, my success seemed like magic. For all of us here, we know that people with disabilities succeed not by magic but through opportunities." (Speech at the White House marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disability Act in 2015)

Dr Fatima Akilu 

Dr Fatima Akilu is a truly remarkable person. She is a NHS trained forensic psychologist with 20 years of experience in the field of mental health and psychology. She runs counselling and de-radicalisation programmes, set up by the NEEM Foundation in Nigeria, for those who have been affected by Boko-Haram. She set up a  'Counselling on Wheels' programme to actually bring those services to people who live in remote areas through using tricycles. She stated that "We started in February with two tricycles. We have now grown to 12 tricycles. We see on average 1,200 (people) per month." (Reuters) With the lack of recognition of mental health in Africa, this compassion and understanding demonstrated by her mental health programmes, which gained approval by Nigerian officials, is refreshing and hopeful for further recognition in other African countries. 

Jaha Dukureh
TIME / taken by Neilson Barnard
Jaha Dukureh is an anti-FGM and child marriage activist. At a young age, she was subjected to the most extreme form of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), called infibulation or also known as Type 3 FGM. She created a documentary film called 'Jaha's Promise' which gives an insight into her story of how she transformed herself into the activist she is today. The name is inspired by her promise to ensure that her child would not be subject to FGM, as well as a promise to do her best to end the practice for girls all over the world. Jaha founded the non-profit organisation 'Safe Hands for Girls' in which she provides support for women and girls who are survivors of the practice and address the harmful physical and psychological consequences. 

Anne-Marie Imafidon 

Anne-Marie is the CEO, 'Head Stemette' and co-founder of a social enterprise called Stemettes, encouraging women to take up Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers. She is one of the youngest to be awarded a Masters' degree in Mathematics & Computer Science by Oxford University at the age of 20. Anne-Marie was awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Years Honours for her service towards young women within STEM careers.

Noëlla Coursaris Musunka 

Noëlla is an international model as well as an advocate for African girls' education. She was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but was sent to her relatives in Switzerland at the age of five after her father's death, due to the fact that her mother lacked the resources to look after her. When she returned to the DRC to meet her mother, she witnessed the conditions women were living in, as well as the lack of opportunities for women. Noëlla found a global stage through her modelling to put forward her determination to get young girls into education. She founded a non-profit organisation called Malaika, in which she aims to 'empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programmes'. She's gradually achieving this through the Malaika school which is free and provides education for girls in Kalebuka, financing girls to go to school and providing medical equipment  for the community hospitals. She highlights the importance of using ones platform to give back to your community and raise awareness of issues.

Zeinab Badawi
BBC World News Presenter / taken by Henry Iddon
Zeinab Badawi is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist, currently the BBC World News Presenter. She uses her platform effectively for example, in the BBC show 'HARDtalk' she questioned powerful personalities in her interviews. Zeinab Badawi is a strong advocate for women's rights and education demonstrated by the 'Al Ahfad University' which is run by her family where females from all parts of Sudan, as well as the rest of Africa, can receive an education, are trained and equipped to become active change agents in the development of their countries. Furthermore, she started a new nine-part series on BBC World in July 2017 called 'The History of Africa', which gives an insight into the side of Africa which rarely gets reported. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Taken by Stephen Voss
Chimamanda is a feminist and global icon due to her advocacy for women's rights. She has two famous TED talks 'We should all be feminists' and 'the danger of a single story' that hold powerful messages (I'd recommend watching them if you haven't already). Chimamanda is also one of the world's best writers with well-known novels such as 'Purple Hibiscus' and 'Half of a Yellow Sun'. Her writing revolves around topics that an African person can relate to and is representative of the African readers. 

Of course, there are many more amazing African women with achievements that have made a difference this year. Furthermore, don't forget to think back on this year and celebrate your own personal achievements. I hope you all have an amazing New Years celebration! 

- Tasneim Mahmoud x


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