18 Phenomenal African Feminists to Know and Celebrate

by Moiyattu Banya

What is African Feminism? Many feminists from around the world have contested the idea of whether modern conceptions of feminism are African or un-African. Indeed, feminism has existed in Africa since the times of Queen Nzinga of what is now Mozambique and Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana. These women have inspired contemporary African feminists, who have contributed significantly to feminism in various ways—whether it be through art, music, writing, policy. They have been committed to bringing the voices of African women into the spaces that they work within, and they are indeed change-makers—not only on the African continent, but also throughout the African Diaspora. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we must take the time to celebrate the 20 African Feminists you should know.

1. Theo Sowa – CEO of African Women’s Development Fund

Theo Sowa is Chief Executive Officer of the African Women’s Development Fund. She has previously worked as an independent advisor for a wide range of international and social development issues. Her work has covered advocacy, service delivery, evaluation, facilitation, policy, and organizational development with a range of international and intergovernmental organizations and grant-making foundations.

Follow her work at: http://www.awdf.org/our-work/staff/
Follow her on Twitter: @TheoSowa

2. Abena Busia – Writer, Poet & Professor

Professor Abena Busia is the current Chair of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is also co-director and co-editor of the groundbreaking Women Writing Africa Project, a multi-volume anthology published by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York. As Professor Busia points out, "History is located in multiple places,” and the anthology is designed to recognize the complex cultural legacy and “cultural production” of African women. Busia has helped edit two volumes of the anthology—Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel (2005) and Women Writing Africa: Northern Africa (2009).

3. Osai Ojigho – Lawyer and Activist

Osai Ojigbo is a lawyer, gender justice advocate, and human rights activist. She holds a law degree from the University of Lagos in Nigeria and a Master’s of Law degree from the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom. She served as the Deputy Executive Director at Alliances for Africa (AfA), where she coordinated the Gender Justice in Africa Initiative. Osai has designed and implemented programs aimed at building the capacity of community-based women leaders on issues related to human rights.

Follow her on Twitter: @livingtruely

4. Leymah Gbowee – Activist

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women's rights advocate. She is also a 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate. She is the founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, based in Monrovia. Leymah is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia's devastating, 14-year civil war in 2003.

Follow her on Twitter: @LeymahRGbowee

5. Minna Salammi – Activist, Blogger & Speaker

Minna is a Nigerian-Finnish writer, blogger and speaker and the founder of MsAfropolitan, a multiple award-winning pan-African feminist blog. She is also a member of the Duke University Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network, the Guardian Africa Network, a board member of UK Charity For Books’ Sake, and a Huffington Post contributor.

Follow her work on her blog: www.msafropolitan.com
Follow her on Twitter: @MsAfropolitan

6. Amina Doherty – Artivist

Amina Doherty is a Nigerian feminist ARTivist whose work focuses on feminist philanthropy and creative arts advocacy. She has facilitated learning initiatives on women’s rights, youth development, philanthropy, and economic justice. Amina actively supports several community-led media platforms and brings to her activism a passion for music, art, travel, photography, fashion and poetry.

Follow her on Twitter: @Sheroxlox

7. Nana Sekyiamah – Writer, Blogger & Activist

Nana Sekyiamah calls herself a “Fab African Feminist.” She has served in many leadership roles on the African continent for years as the Communications Specialist for the African Women’s Development Fund, a leading pan-African grant funding organization in Ghana. She focuses on writing stories that explore issues around the diverse sexualities of African women. She is the curator of Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, a highly acclaimed and widely read blog on African women and sexuality.

Follow her work on www.adventuresfrom.com
Follow her on Twitter: @Nas009

8. Amina Mama – Professor and Researcher

Professor Amina Mama is Nigerian-British feminist writer and intellectual who has worked for over two decades in research, teaching, organizational change, and editing in Nigeria, Britain, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the U.S.A. She spent a decade at the University of Cape Town’s African Gender Institute where she led the collaborative development of feminist studies and research for African contexts. Amina currently works as a professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of California, Davis.

9. Yewande Omotoso – Writer

Yewande Omotoso was born in Barbados and grew up in Nigeria with her Barbadian mother, Nigerian father, and two older brothers. The family moved to South Africa in 1992. Yewande trained as an architect at the University of Cape Town, to which she returned after working as an architect for several years, to complete a master’s degree in Creative Writing. The product of her degree is her debut novel Bomboy, which was published in 2011.

Follow her on Twitter: @Yomotoso

10. Purity Kagwiria – Executive Director of the Akili Dada Institute

Purity Kagwiria serves as the Executive Director of the Akili Dada institute, an organization that provides education and leadership opportunity to girls and women in Kenya. A journalist by profession, Purity is an active member of the feminist/women's rights movement and she is committed to analyzing the private and personal spaces that women inhabit and developing strategies that lead to the emancipation of women. Purity holds a degree in Gender and Development from the University of Nairobi and a Diploma in Journalism from Kenya Institute of Mass Communication.

Follow her on Twitter: @Pruncie
Follow the Akili Dada Institute: @akilidada

11. Yaba Badoe – Activist and Filmmaker

Yaba Badoe is a Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker, producer, and writer. A graduate of King’s College in Cambridge, she worked as a civil servant in Ghana before becoming a General Trainee with the BBC. She has taught in Spain and Jamaica, and has worked as a producer and director making documentaries for the main terrestrial channels in Britain and the University of Ghana in Accra. Her documentaries include The Witches of Gambaga (2011) and The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo (2014).

12. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim – Professor and Activist

Aisha Fofana Ibrahim is the Director of the Gender Research and Documentation Centre at the University of Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College. In 2009-2010, she was the Helleiner Visiting Research Fellow at The North-South Institute, an IDRC-funded fellowship. While at The North-South Institute, Ibrahim’s work focused on affirmative action as a means to overcome barriers that limit women’s entry into politics. Aisha also serves as President of the 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, which focuses on advocacy, policy, and capacity building for women’s leadership.

Follow her organization: www.fiftyfiftysierraleone.org

13. Melissa Kiguwa – Poet and Artist

Melissa Kiguwa is an artist, a daughter, and a radical feminist. Her artistry ranges from designing one of a kind custom-made pieces of jewelry to poetry to improvisational blues performance. Her work is rooted in acknowledging and giving praise to diverse global Afro experiences. Raised by a Haitian father and a Ugandan mother, Melissa considers herself an “Afro-nomad.” Her latest poetry book is titled the Reveries of Longing.

14. Ama Ata Aidoo – Writer

Professor Ama Ata Aidoo, née Christina Ama Aidoo, is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright, and academic. She also served as a Minister of Education in Ghana under the Jerry Rawlings administration. She currently lives in Ghana. In 2000, she established the Mbaasem Foundation to promote and support the work of African women writers.

Follow her on Twitter: @AmaAtaAidoo

15. Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng – Activist and Musician

Born and raised in Ghana, Maame is a committed advocate and a passionate leader, who is also a dynamic singer and recording artist. She recently released her second album, titled Ekome. She has worked as a Program Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) at the Global Fund for Women, and is Board Member and co-chair of the Bay Area Regional Advisory Committee for the African Women’s Development Fund in the U.S.A. (AWDF-USA). Maame is also a board member and Program Director for Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership in Africa, and is also board member of We Care Solar, an award winning organization using organization using solar technology to facilitate timely and appropriate emergency care for maternal and infant health.

Follow her music: www.maameafon.com.
Follow her organizations' work: http://moremiinitiative.org/wp/ and http://wecaresolar.org/

16. Rainatou Sow – Executive Director of Make Every Woman Count

Rainatou Sow is the founder and executive director of Make Every Woman Count, an organization that monitors women’s rights throughout the African contintent. The Guinean activist was named "Inspirational Woman of 2012" by the United Kingdom based group, Women 4 Africa. She has also been featured on CNN, as well as in Forbes Africa.

Follow her organization: www.makeeverywomancount.org

17. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013). She also released a short story collection, The Thing around Your Neck in 2009. Chimamanda self-identifies as a feminist and has written and given speeches on various current topics relating to women’s issues in Nigeria and across the Diaspora, including her celebrated TED talks.

Follow her work: www.chimamanda.com

18. Hilda Twongyeirwe – Writer and Editor

Hilda Twongyeirwe is a Ugandan writer and editor. She published the children’s book, Fina the Dancer, in 2007. She has also written a number of short stories, and her poetry has appeared in a number of journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is currently the coordinator of FEMRITE, an organization focused on developing and publishing women writers in Uganda and the East African region. Through FEMRITE, she has edited a number of publications, including I Dare to Say: African Women Share Their Stories of Hope and Survival in 2012.

Follow her work at FEMRITE: www.femriteug.org

Moiyattu Banya is a Native to Sierra Leone, a Digital Mover and Shaker, Feminist and a Writer. She currently teaches women studies courses at Temple University in the United States and also does international consulting with Social Enterprises in West Africa. She is Founder of Women Change Africa. Moiyattu is part of the African Women’s Development Fund’s (AWDF) Community of African Women Writers. Follow her on Twitter: @WcaWorld.

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