In the world we live in, the activism of Black women has been instrumental in shaping social justice agendas and promoting human rights. Women are no longer subjected to handling house chores and tending to the kitchen, they are being more.

Today, we celebrate four women who have been inspirations to others and for the changes they brought about, for their work ethic, and for their passion to improve the everyday lives of marginalised or oppressed groups.

Marielle Franco (Brazil)

Marielle Franco (1979-2018) is a Brazilian human rights activist who drew on her experiences growing up in Maré, a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro, to campaign for the rights of favela residents, many of whom are Black.

Most of what she fought in activism about was police brutality and military intervention in the favelas. She also tried to improve the lives of black women in her community. Sadly, she was assassinated in 2018 but her legacy lives on as some women closely connected to her have step up into politics and now elected into public offices.

Efua Dorkenoo (Ghana)

Efua Dorkenoo (1949-2014) was a Ghanaian-British women’s rights activist who was a pioneering leader in the global movement to end female genital cutting.

While working as a staff nurse at London hospitals that she learned of the medical complications faced by women who had undergone the practice of genital cutting and co-founded Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development, a women’s rights organisation to help out a stop to the practice in 1983. As part of her achievements, she also became the World Health Organization’s first technical expert on female genital cutting.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

Nigerian economist and politician Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman and the first African to be appointed as director-general of the World Trade Organization. She was two-time finance minister of Nigeria where she worked to reduce corruption in the country and also supported young women by launching programmes such as Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria, to help women gain skills and employment.

Wangari Maathai (Kenya)

Professor Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), a Kenyan environmentalist and human rights activist, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Seeing the challenges facing the country such as drought, loss of biodiversity and increased poverty, she founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 where the focus was on poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree planting. By 2004, the movement had expanded to over 30 countries and has now planted more than 51 million trees in Kenya alone.

These women have been of great impact to the African community and at Power of Africa, we celebrate their prowess and courage, stepping up to do something for their community.