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How These African Women Have Changed African Politics

Naseeba Garba

Aug. 14, 2020

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti may well be remembered as the first Nigerian woman to drive a car. She was also a civil rights activist, political campaigner, and one of the earliest advocates for women’s right to vote in Nigeria.
She contested and lost a parliamentary seat on the platform of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons party. Ransome-Kuti was then expelled from the party and floated the commoners’ People’s Party.
Her political ideas took her beyond the shores of Nigeria due to her interest in communism as a form of government, prompting her to pay visits to the former USSR, Hungary, and China, where she met with Mao Zedong.
Ransome-Kuti was one of few female delegates who negotiated Nigeria’s independence from the British government. She touched the lives of many, and her activism lives on today in the lives of her children and grandchildren who continually take the Nigerian government to task on issues of accountability.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim makes this list as one of two incumbent female presidents in Africa. She is the head of state and commander-in-chief of Mauritius.
Gurib-Fakim is a professor of chemistry with a long list of academic achievements. Not one to shy away from standing up against perceived injustice, in December 2013, Dr. Gurib-Fakim alleged she had been discriminated against in the selection process for a vice chancellor of the University of Mauritius.
She became the presidential candidate of alliance the Alliance of the People in December 2014. And while Mauritius has had a number of female heads of state, Gurib-Fakim is the first elected female president of Mauritius.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf holds the distinction as the first elected female head of state in Africa. She is also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Johnson Sirleaf contested the 1997 Liberian presidential elections and lost to Charles Taylor, going into exile soon afterwards.
In 2005, Johnson Sirleaf contested for the seat of president again. She came in second behind George Weah in the first round of voting but went on to win the run-off by 59 percent to Weah’s 40 percent. She secured a second term in office in the 2011 presidential elections.
In 2006, one year after she was sworn in, Johnson Sirleaf instituted the Truth and Reconciliatory Commission. The report indicted Johnson Sirleaf, among several others. President Johnson Sirleaf then took the path of honor, owning up to her mistakes and promptly apologizing for her past indiscretions.
In 2010, Johnson Sirleaf signed into law a Freedom of Information bill, a first of its kind in West Africa. She also managed to negotiate a debt relief agreement with the United States, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
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