12 Of The Most Influential Female Politicians In Africa
Most African nations have not fully adopted democracy into their politics and women representation remain low, while men hold more political influence.
Some female politicians have managed to established themselves as great influencers over the masses in different African countries. The continent has already had female presidents and more women are following in their steps.
There remains a lot of catching up to do, but here’s a collection of amazing women who have held important positions of political power in Africa:
(This slideshow was first published on April 11, 2014)
After taking office in April 2012, President Joyce Banda quickly made her stake as a leader dedicated to national unity and fighting corruption that had so long been a part of politics in Malawi. She has for long been involved in a variety of grassroots initiatives, including those aimed at aiding orphans, providing development opportunities for women, combating hunger, and much more.
During her term, she sold a $15 million presidential jet, reduced her salary by 30 percent and dismissed the entire cabinet due to corruption allegations. These austerity measures significantly reduced government expenditure.Western nations and International Monetary Fund lifted monetary sanctions on the Southern Africa nation during her term in power.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia
She was the first ever female head of state in Africa and has served as president of Liberia since her election in 2005. She was re-elected for her second term on November 8, 2011 in a presidential run-off.
She has dedicated much of her presidency to combating the national debt, promoting national unity, establishing strong international allies, and prioritizing education and health care.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen, for their enduring work towards women’s rights and peace building.
She is the current Chairperson of African Leaders Malaria Alliance, an intergovernmental organization that is leading the fight against malaria in Africa.
Ngozi Iweala Okonji, Minister of Finance, Nigeria
Internationally recognized economist Ngozi Iweala Okonji served two terms as Minister of Finance in Nigeria, a position held off-and-on from 2003 until May, 2015. Before that she worked at World Bank. During her terms, she worked to tackle Nigeria’s outstanding debts, facilitate transparency in the nation’s finances, and was instrumental in improving the Nigeria’s credit rating.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson African Union Commission
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was elected chairwoman of the African Union Commission in July 2012 following her service in South African politics for many years. She is the first woman to ever lead the African Union, and has become a spokeswoman for freedom, unity, and female empowerment across Africa. She’s considered a potential future leader of the African National Congress.
She has intentions of succeeding Jacob Zuma (who she was married to from 1972 to 1998), as the next president of the African National Congress Party in 2017. A successful election will place her in top contention to become South Africa’s first female president.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, former Parliamentary Leader for the Democratic Alliance, South Africa
Though one of the youngest parliamentarians in South African history, Lindiwe Mazibuko, 35, is being considered as a future leader for the Democratic Alliance. In 2012, she was voted South Africa’s Most Influential Woman, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013. She is considered a rising star on the South African political stage, and is one to watch in years to come. Mazibuko resigned from her position as parliamentary leader in 2014 to study at Harvard University in the U.S.
Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
She was the first female vice-president of an independent African nation. Wandira-Kazibwe was Vice-President of Uganda from 1994 to 2003. During this period, she was also Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries.
In August 2013, she was appointed United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
She was Minister for Gender and Community Development from 1991 to 1994. Wandira-Kazibwe was a member of the Constitution Assembly that drafted the nation’s new constitution in 1994.
Gambian Fatou Bensouda has served as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court since June 2012, and has changed the face of the embattled institution. Taking over from the highly criticized former Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, Bensouda doesn’t shy away from difficult cases. She seeks to restore the integrity of the ICC and is pursued a case against the president and vice president of Kenya for their alleged roles in violence following the 2007 election. She was a legal adviser and trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Human rights lawyer and South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has been heavily involved in her nation’s politics for some time. She’s one of 11 experts who helped draft the final constitution in 1994 that ushered South Africa into democracy. In her position, she has been an anti-corruption crusader, and made waves during her investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s excessive “security upgrades” using state funds for his private residence.
She was appointed as the first female Vice President of Zimbabwe on December 6, 2004. Mujuru left office on December 8, 2014 after her relations with the country’s president, Robert Mugabe deteriorated. Mujuru was the youngest Cabinet minister after she was appointed to the Sport, Youth and Recreation docket in 1980. She was also one of the first female commanders in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, a nationalist organization that fought against the white rule in the Rhodesian Bush War.
Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of Tanzania
She is the first ever female vice-president of Tanzania. Suluhu Hassan was running mate to President John Pombe Magufuli, who won the presidential elections on October 25, 2015. She is the second female vice president in East Africa, after Uganda’s Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe who served from 1994 to 2003.
She served as Member of Parliament for Makunduchi Constituency from November 2010 to July 2015. Suluhu Hassan was the Minister of Labor, Gender Development and Children in Zanzibar (2000-20050, Zanzibar Minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment (2005-2010) and Tanzania Minister of State for Union Affairs (November 28, 2010- November 5, 2015).
Martha Karua, The ‘Iron Lady’ Of Kenya
She is a Kenyan politician and one of the pioneer female legislators in the East African nation. Karua is a lawyer and has made immense contributions to the development of family law in Kenya. She has had an illustrious political career since her election as Member of Parliament for Gichugu in 1992.
Karua, popularly known as ‘Iron Lady’ because of her combative style of politics, has served in several ministerial positions; Minister of Water Resources Management and Development (2003-2005) and Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs (2005-April 6, 2009). In March 2013, she vied for presidency but came sixth with about 43, 881 votes.
Hanna Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ghana
Having served in a variety of positions in the Ghanaian government since 2000, Hanna Tetteh was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by President Dramani Mahama in January 2013. With a background in legal work, she is able to negotiate persuasively with her peers, and is well admired by the public.
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