Women have made incredible strides over the last century, assuming powerful and influential positions across the globe. There remains a lot of catching up to do, but here’s a collection of amazing women who hold important positions of political power: 10 of the most influential female politicians in Africa.
1. Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
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 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.
2.Hanna Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ghana
Having served in a variety of positions in the Ghanaian government since 2000, Hanna Tetteh was most recently 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.
3. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia
The first female head of state in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has served as president of Liberia since her election in 2005. 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.
4.Ngozi Iweala Okonji, Minister of Finance, Nigeria
Internationally recognized economist Ngozi Iweala Okonji is the current Minister of Finance in Nigeria, a position she has held off-and-on since 2003, following her work at World Bank. During her terms, she has worked to tackle Nigeria’s outstanding debts, facilitate transparency in the nation’s finances, and was instrumental in improving the Nigeria’s credit rating.
5.Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairwoman, 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 previously served as South Africa’s Minister of Health from 1994 to 1999, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2009, and Minister of Home Affairs from 2009 to 2012. She is the first woman to lead the African Union Commission, and has become a spokeswoman for freedom, unity, and female empowerment across Africa.
6.Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader for the Democratic Alliance, South Africa
Though one of the youngest parliamentarians in South African history, Lindiwe Mazibuko, 34, is already 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 definitely one to watch in years to come.
7. Angellah Kariuki, Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Tanzania
Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 20 Young Power Women in Africa, Angellah Kariuki is a Special Seat Member of Tanzania’s Parliament, in addition to her role as the country’s Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
8. Fatou Bensouda, ICC Chief Prosecutor
Gambian Fatou Bensouda has served as the 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 pursuing a case against the president and vice president of Kenya for their alleged roles in violence following the 2007 election.
9. Thuli Madonsela, Public Protector, South Africa
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 the 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 recently made waves during her investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s excessive “security upgrades” using state funds for his private residence.
10. Viola Onwuliri, Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Nigeria
Viola Onwuliri is one of the most influential representatives for Nigeria on the international stage, and has worked on improving foreign relations since her appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan. She has developed a reputation for standing her ground in difficult circumstances and moving forward to accomplish objectives while maintaining good will.