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Blog Article — February 28, 2023 — Aneth Batamuliza

Women, AHEAD!

1th March – We shout out #WomenAHEAD

#EmbraceEquity is this year's theme for International Women's Day. A theme just to our liking.

But why commemorate women on just one day? And with such a theme, why not celebrate all who promote gender equality? Women all over Africa are excelling in their fields and fighting for women's rights every day. They are feminists, actively or unconsciously paving the way for others and overcoming stereotypes and discrimination.

On the lead-up to March 8th, let’s celebrate women, their achievements, and their allies by highlighting those who inspire us, who overcome animosity and inequity, and those who empower African women.

We shout out #WomenAHEAD by showcasing those who were and are #AHEAD of their time. The acronym AHEAD came out of our research and conversations about all the women who inspire us and what it takes to truly #EmbraceEquity

Angels – #ThinkAHEAD

Heroes – #AHEADOfTheirTime

Enemies – #AHEADache

Allies – #PushAHEAD

Disrupters – #AHEADOfTheCurve

Starting tomorrow, trailblazing, game-changing, disrupting women and allies will accompany you until March 8th. Celebrate them and let them inspire you!

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2nd March – Angels who #ThinkAHEAD

Our first day of celebrating women until International Women's Day is dedicated to all angels: those women who are champions in their field and use their influence to empower others, ignite change and #ThinkAHEAD. 💪🏽

We start with Juliana Rotich, Kenyan technologist and social entrepreneur. Whether as an advisor or as a public speaker, technology is key to her game-changing ventures. Most notably, by co-founding the open-source platform Ushahidi, she has demonstrated how crowdsourcing data and technology can enable entire communities in times of crisis or need.

We see Feminists as the guardian angels of women's rights. Nigerian writer and public intellectual Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, probably one of the most important and influential contemporary writers of our time, is such an angel. 🙏 She is not only known for her critically acclaimed novels and essays, but also for her activism on issues related to Feminism, LGBTQ+ rights in Africa and social justice.

Another Feminist, we celebrate as one of our angels, is Winnie Byanyima, Ugandan politician, diplomat and activist. ♀️ She started her career as an aeronautical engineer, but soon began fighting and advocating for women's rights, economic equality and social justice; first as a Member of Parliament in Uganda, then globally as Executive Director of Oxfam International. As current Executive Director of UNAIDS, her story continues to inspire us, and keeps on empowering women and girls in Africa and around the world.

Rebecca Enonchong believes in the catalytic power of African innovation and technology, just like us. She is a game-changing Cameroonian entrepreneur, technology advocate and founder of AppsTech, a leading global provider of enterprise application solutions. 📱 She is one of our angels because she uses her voice within the African Innovation Ecosystem to promote increased access to technology and opportunities for African entrepreneurs.

💥 Our first day dedicated to inspirational women ends with a bang: we want to honour Graça Machel for playing a key role in advocating women's rights as well as equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The Mozambican politician and humanitarian has used her influence in each of her offices to foster lasting change in Africa – as Minister for Education and Culture in Mozambique, as the first Education Minister in post-apartheid South Africa and as a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP).

Especially inspiring for us is her current work as founder of the Graça Machel Trust, which focuses on promoting female leadership, among other issues. 👩🏽‍💼

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    Juliana Rotich, Kenyan technologist and social entrepreneur
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    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer and public intellectual
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    Winnie Byanyima, Ugandan politician, diplomat and activist
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    Rebecca Enonchong, Cameroonian entrepreneur, technology advocate and founder of AppsTech
  • Day5 e
    Graça Machel, Mozambican politician and humanitarian

3rd March – Heroes who were #AHEADOfTheirTime

We continue to celebrate #WomenAHEAD by honoring our heroes. 🦸🏽‍♀️ Today our colleague Sue found inspiration in history because our heroes are #AHEADOfTheirTime. They were trailblazers breaking the glass ceiling, the first of their generation and groundbreaking African innovators.

📚 The first woman we celebrate as a hero is the great Maya Angelou, inspiring American author, poet and civil rights activist. The mark of her life and work transcends the American borders, as did she during her time in Cairo and Accra.
Her voice still echoes in the minds of women all around the world – providing guidance and encouragement. She always reminds us to dare. (And because of her accomplishments and impact, we dared to make an exception for her as the only non-African women in our group. 😉)

Egyptian feminist writer, activist and physician Nawal El Saadawi was #AHEAD of her time. ✒️ Using writing as a tool for resistance and activism, she was a vocal advocate for women's rights in Egypt and the Arab world. Fearlessly, she challenged the patriarchy and oppressive regimes.
Her words continue to inspire us and people around the world to fight against injustice and to stand up for human rights and #EmbraceEquity.

In a group of inspiring, trailblazing African women one must not be missing: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Liberian politician was the first elected female head of state in Africa. She served as President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. In 2011, the year of her reelection, Sirleaf won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the role of women in peace-keeping.
We are in awe of such accomplishments and a life dedicated to advocating for democracy and women rights. 👏🏽

And while we are talking about Nobel Peace Prize laureates and first African women of their generation: let us remember Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As a Kenyan environmental and political activist, she was #AHEADof her time, too, and is best known for her efforts to promote conservation, community development and women's rights. 💚

The last hero in our group that could have included so many influential African women is Miriam Makeba. 🎶 Also known as Mama Africa, this South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist became a symbol for the fight against apartheid and change in many African countries.
Among the first African musicians to receive worldwide recognition, her songs continue to inspire us. Check it out: Miriam Makeba – The Retreat Song (Jikele Maweni) LIVE

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    Maya Angelou, American author, poet and civil rights activist
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    Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental and political activist
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    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian politician and first female head of state in Africa
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    Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian writer, activist and physician
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    Miriam Makeba, South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist

4th March – Enemies to gender equality

Great strides have been made towards gender equality; African trailblazers and champions abound.

💭 But when we reflect and take stock of the journey, we must also note we still have a long way to go to defeat the biases, obstacles and bottlenecks to gender equality. We asked Namibian Poet Jacobina Bina Uushona to tell us about the enemies to gender equality, which today is the 'E' in our #WomenAHEAD demand.

Her words, powerful and true, bolster our resolve. This is what she had to say.

Content note: Her poem is as beautiful as it is brutally honest, which is why we must issue a WARNING: the poem also refers to sexual violence. If you’re sensitive to this topic, you should not watch the video. But it is also part of the reality of women that should be talked about.

'Enemies' by Namibian Poet Jacobina Bina Uushona

5th March – Allies who #PushAHEAD

One day before this year’s International Women's Day it’s time for us to let those who stand behind women on their way #AHEAD have their say: the allies. 👷‍♂️👨🏽‍🎓 👨‍💼 👨🏾‍⚕️ 👮🏿

Our colleague Geoffroy wanted to know from our male partners and colleagues whether they consider themselves allies and/or feminists. And if so – what makes them an ally or feminist?

He received very different and honest answers – some of them inspiring and showing that reflection alone can already contribute to gender equality. Others illustrate that a lot still needs to be done for us to really band together and embrace equity.

Would you like to see what they had to say? ➡ Click through some of their answers!

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    Allies who #PushAHEAD
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6th March – Disrupters who are #AHEADOfTheCurve

Today we zoom into Africa's tech disrupters. They are today's innovators. They challenge the status quo, break away with social shackles and are bold role models for those following closely behind. In short: they are always #AHEADOfTheCurve.

From a wide variety of exceptional African women in tech, Aneth and Alex from our Make-IT in Africa team had the hard task to narrow the list down to four disrupters: Fatoumata Bâ, Dorcas Owinoh, Lelemba Phiri and Miishe Addy. Their marks, whether through their investments or innovations in the tech, logistics or medical sectors, are proof that innovation ecosystems can only truly flourish when women have a say in shaping, advancing and deciding their trajectories.

Our first disrupter is American-born Miishe Addy, who moved to her ancestral homeland of Ghana after university to consult startups at an incubator in Accra. Soon she found her calling, becoming the founder and CEO of JetStream, a game-changer in African logistics and #AHEAD of the curve. 🚢 With Jetstream Addy enables African startups and companies to finance, manage and monitor their regional supply chains in a technology-driven way. She shared with us how she sees life and we can only agree with her:

”Just by being born into the world you have already changed it. The depth and direction of your impact beyond that is mostly up to you.”

Lelemba Phiri is an award-winning educator, writer, keynote speaker and gender-lens angel investor. As Principal at the Africa Trust Group Phiri takes a holistic approach to enabling women by investing in both female entrepreneurs and their businesses. 📈

She is also an outstanding woman whose passion for female leadership and entrepreneurship development in Africa we were fortunate to experience in person while working together at the AfriLabs Annual Gathering 2022. At the time, she predicted the future of the African innovation ecosystem is female, but she also knows there is still a long but promising way to go:

“With less than 4% of venture capital going into female led businesses in Africa, it's not a surprise that the continent is still lagging behind on its development goals. We need to make finance work better for women by ensuring that we're considering both contextual and cultural dynamics in the design of products and services. As a gender-lens investor I'm glad to be disrupting the space by creating products and services for women entrepreneurs in Africa.”

Another great example to have first changed the game in African e-commerce and then moved to venture capital: Fatoumata Bâ. At Jumia, the #1 tech unicorn in Africa to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the Senegalese tech entrepreneur served as founder & CEO in Ivory Coast, Managing Director in Nigeria and Member of the Executive Committee at Africa level. Eager to be an investor herself, Bâ founded Janngo: the tech platform builds, grows and invests in pan-African “tech-for-good” champions with proven business models and inclusive social impact.

Fatoumata Bâ now is a tech entrepreneur, VC investor, executive chair and managing partner of Janngo Capital. Still, the number of African female investors and founders are too few. Aware of how much potential there is for the economy, this is a situation she wants to change:

“That is why Janngo Capital is proud to be a female-founded, owned and led VC fund with a commitment to invest 50% of our proceeds in startups founded, co-founded by or benefiting women. In fact, 56% of our current portfolio is female-founded and led, which makes us Africa's largest gender-equal tech VC fund. We are inspired everyday by their hard work as they are revolutionizing green mobility and reducing carbon emissions in Senegal or enabling hundreds of thousands of SMEs in Nigeria to have access to financial services. And guess what? They are just getting started!”

Dorcas Owinoh is another female founder we admire. The Kenyan entrepreneur and innovator is a co-founder of SokoNect and director of programs at LakeHub. Supporting especially small farmers, SokoNect is a startup company in Nairobi and a multi-platform tool that allows farmers to sell their products or services. LakeHub on the other hand is a Kisumu-based technology and social innovation hub supporting developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and social innovators. Their aim is to make technology accessible and to grow entrepreneurship and social innovation.

For Dorcas Owinoh, building an ecosystem that works for everyone is a passion and an important part of her work, especially at LakeHub:

"We have the ability as women to challenge the norm, disrupt the status quo, and make a positive difference in our communities. My work at LakeHub demonstrates this. I'm committed to building a more equitable and inclusive tech ecosystem in Kenya, and I believe that women can help shape the future of technology. Let us keep breaking down barriers, inspiring change, and empowering the next generation of female leaders."

👏 We salute these women as examples of boldness and are excited to see what they will accomplish next. Ladies, you rock!

Disrupters who are #AHEADOfTheCurve

7th March – Favorite African Feminists!

We asked partners, friends and colleagues: “Who is your favorite African feminist?” 👩🏽‍⚕️👩🏼‍🌾👷🏻‍♀️🧕🏽👩🏾‍🏫👩🏽‍🚀👩🏿‍💼 And the response was overwhelming! Enjoy watching!

8th March – Happy International Women's Day!

To all women, girls and everybody out there: Happy International Women's Day! 🎉

We would like to celebrate the day together with our partners, friends and colleagues – with a second version of our 'Favorite African Feminist'- compilation!

#InternationalWomensDay2023 – it's a wrap! Wrong! 🙅🏾 We had a lot of fun celebrating this year's #IWD. At the same time, it showed us once again that there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve real gender equality and that we need to embrace equity every day. We try to do our bit by running programmes with our partners that are specifically tailored to women. We will keep highlighting them on our platforms – stay stuned!


About the authors: Just like the commitment to equality, 'Women, AHEAD!' was a joint effort! Colleagues from our team of different genders and backgrounds worked together on it. Meet Valeria, Alex, Anna, Aneth, Sue, Geoffroy, Nora and Daniel!

Many thanks to all our partners and friends who have contributed to this week and our shared message.

© Images:
Juliana Rotich (© Wikimedia Commons), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (© Wikimedia Commons), Winnie Byanyima (© Wikimedia Commons), Rebecca Enonchong (© Wikimedia Commons), Graça Machel (© Wikimedia Commons)
Maya Angelou (© Wikimedia Commons), Wangari Maathai (© Wikimedia Commons), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (© Flickr), Nawal El Saadawi (© Flickr), Miriam Makeba (© Wikimedia Commons)
Miishe Addy, Lelemba Phiri, Fatoumata Bâ, Dorcas Owinoh
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