African women shattering the glass ceiling in 2018

It’s International Women’s day and there’s a lot to celebrate and reflect on. From the choruses of #MeToo, to unraveling the silences surrounding patriarchy, women all around are continuously shaking tables and are not scared to watch whatever is on top come crashing down.

Lupita Nyong’o. Credit: Celebrity Insider

Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan-Mexican actress is an example. The daughter of Kenyan politician Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, she was born in Mexico City where her father was teaching and raised in Kenya from the age of one. Lupita Nyong’o is an international filmmaker and actress who became widely known for her Academy Award-winning role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave.’ Nyong’o has become a majestic fashion icon, with red-carpet appearances in publications like InStyle and Vogue and also on Instagram.
Nyong’o continues to revel in the after glow of her recent feature in Marvel’s Black Panther as Nakia, the battle-tested ally of Chadwick Boseman who played T’challa, shattering stereotypes about the limitations of marketing a largely black cast.


Akwaeke Emezi, photographed by Yagazie Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi, an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces was born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria.

Her debut autobiographical novel FRESHWATER in which she explores the dimensions of selves and challenges the idea of what Nigerians are known to call gbanje, has been reviewed by the Wall Street Journal as a “witchy, electrifying story of danger and compulsion.” She was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and profiled in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Magazine (Modern Families With A Cause) and her video art series THE UNBLINDING recently premiered at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in Harlem.

Akwaeke Emezi also expresses her thoughts about non binary individual struggles and challenges, going on to tell her story in an article on Brittle Paper.


Nnedi Okoroafor, Credit:

Nnedi Okoroafor is a Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, the “Naijamerican professor, rudimentary cyborg & World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of over 14 books of African scifi, magical futurism, juju fantasy & mystical realism”  has made a name for herself with novels that combine politically complex science fiction and lyrical fantasy, this according to The New York Times.

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults especially known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”. She continues to challenge the limits of the African story.


Danai Gurira, photographed by Chad Griffith.

Danai Gurira was born in Grinnell, Iowa to parents from Zimbabwe, when her father was teaching Chemistry at Grinnell College. When she was 5, the family moved back to Zimbabwe. She is best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, an AMC television horror drama series, as the writer of the Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed, and as Okoye in the Marvel’s Black Panther.

Danai explained her role in the movie as an essential confident attitude that the 21st century black woman owes herself and the society, proposing that black women should not be shy or afraid to subvert societal lies about who they should or should not be. In her words, “a little bit” of the “Fierce and feminine” Okoye will do the trick.


Maame Adjei. Credit: Glam Africa

Maame Adjei is a multi talented actor, creative artist and producer. Since moving from Philadelphia back home to Ghana in 2013, Maame has delved into her love for the arts. Moving away from her background in Psychology (BA) and Healthcare Finance/Administration (MS) she chose to follow her interests, passions and heart into creative fields.

As an artist, Maame has been repurposing and refurbishing furniture for years. She has created pieces for private clients and produced visual installations for the The Chalewote Street Arts festival in Accra in both 2013 and 2014. Her focus is on up cycling-reusing discarded materials and refurbishing old pieces to make them functional and contemporary.

As an actress she’s best known for her role as “Zainab” on the hit TV series “An African City” which she also co-produces. Maame has also had roles in “A Sweet Song”, a short film by Ghanaian director Asantewa Prempeh that was selected into the 2014 BFI London Film Festival as well as Coz Ov Moni, a musical from Ghana that has been selected into numerous international festivals including the 2014 Durban International Film Festival.

She’s currently producing new content that explores the beauty and dynamism of Africa, including her travel show “Girl Going Places” whose pilot season is soon to be released.” Maame was born in Ghana where she currently resides.” In an interview with Glam Africa, Maame says, “We need to travel our own spaces first in order to preach its beauty. Otherwise someone else will come, see Ghana, go back and write a nice little piece about our homeland and we won’t be happy about it. We have to do that for ourselves first! Travel our own space first.”


Lilian Makoi. Credit: Innov8tive.

Lilian Makoi is a Multi-award winning Financial and Digital Inclusion expert doing her part to transform Tanzania through innovative solutions. Although she’s co-founded a number of start-ups, she’s best known for Jamii Africa. Jamii Africa is a start-up that provides health insurance targeted at Tanzania’s low income population.

In Tanzania, the penetration of health insurance is as low as 4.5% and the main reason those who have health insurance do is because they get it as benefits from an employer.
“Our mobile technology performs all the administration activities of the insurer.” Makoi says, “Jamii is also matched in strategic partnership with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom. This helps cut insurance administration cost by 95%!”

Jamii offers a health insurance product at $1 a month. It immediately makes health insurance affordable to 47 million people in just Tanzania and is already impacting the lives of over 8,000 families.


Linda Masarira

Linda Masarira is a Zimbabwean activist who works as a national coordinator, responsible for formulating projects for women empowerment and youth empowerment. She is a strong advocate for human rights, particularly women’s rights. The fierce campaigner, and mother of five, has officially announced plans to seek political office.

Masarira has dedicated a great part of her life and that of her family to fighting for democracy and has had frightening ordeals in the hands of a brutal state machinery.
She added: “I am therefore announcing my independent candidacy not because I have no sense of belonging; No, but because I believe in servant leadership and as the saying goes, ‘you cannot serve two masters at the same time’. Therefore, I choose to serve people and represent their interests.”

Linda Masarira is an aspiring 2018 Independent candidate for Harare Central parliamentary seat.


Koleka Putuma. Credit: Mail&Guardian

Koleka Putuma uses her work which she describes as providing a cure for society’s collective amnesia to confront the difficult and sometimes taboo issues of black people in South Africa. And she doesn’t care if she offends you in the process. “When we look at the country — but not only the country, in our families as well — you kind of realise that when you don’t grieve or when you don’t heal from something, collectively, as a group, or as people, things come back,” she told

“There’s a cycle. And even if you try and slip into a kind of amnesia, if you have not dealt with something, in one way or another, it’s gonna return.” The South African poet and playwright is breaking that cycle – through her debut anthology of poetry, “Collective Amnesia”.


Kelechi Okafor. Credit:

Kelechi Okafor is an actor, director and owner of Kelechnekoff, a dance fitness studio where twerking becomes an act of care. Lagos-born and London-bred, the self-described “fitness badass and twerk innovator” is currently working on an e-book, gearing up to direct several short plays and facilitating a Twerking as Self-Care workshop during WOW—Women of the World festival at Southbank Centre in London this month.

WOW celebrates women and explores ways to ensure they can hurdle the stumbling blocks in their way; an issue close to Okafor’s heart. “I’m passionate about any issue that involves the subjugation of Black women.” She looks to dance as a way of communicating things for which she has no words, and sees twerking as a way of mending the soul. “Dance to me is a form of healing, and I think this is probably another reason why it resonates with so many women…” she told BBC.


Glory Okon Edim. Credit: Well Read Black Girl

Well-Read Black Girl” is a popular curated newsletter and a Brooklyn-based book club dedicated to phenomenal black women and readers and writers of color, celebrating the uniqueness of black literature and sisterhood. Glory Okon Edim is the mastermind behind the publication which celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood. Her book club has met with several award-winning authors including Margo Jefferson, Naomi Jackson, and Angela Flournoy.

Well-Read Black Girl’s mission is to increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers. Glory has worked as a creative strategist for over 10 years at start-ups and cultural institutions, including the New York Foundation for the Arts and The Webby Awards. Currently, she is the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter, where she helps writers use the platform to build community and find support for their creative endeavors.


Khoudia Diop. Credit: YouTube

Khoudia Diop, more commonly known by Melanin Goddess is a Senegalese model and actress. In Senegal, and most African countries, it’s common for the ebony-skinned women to use bleaching products, but Khoudia Diop decided to do the opposite but not without enduring bullying and pressure to lighten her skin. Diop is now an anti-bullying activist, and signed to The Colored Girl, a creative agency dedicated to confronting and pushing the boundaries of industry standards of beauty. “We share a joint goal: to inspire, empower, and uplift women of color worldwide, and I was excited when they asked me to be a part of something so positive,” she told CNN.

As the awareness continues to discourage the use of harmful bleaching products, Diop serves as a constant reminder that there are so many types of beauty that all deserve to be celebrated.


Dr. Vera Songwe

Dr. Vera Songwe, a native Cameroonian was formally appointed Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. She became the first woman ever to head the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

UNECA is one of the UN’s five regional commissions, and was established in 1958 to encourage economic cooperation among the nations of the African continent. The accomplished economist made history with her new role, beating out more than 70 candidates. According to the UN, “Ms. Songwe brings to the position a longstanding track record of policy advice and results oriented implementation in the region, coupled with a demonstrated strong and clear strategic vision for the continent.”

Songwe’s new duties will include advising African governments on their development projects, and according to Radio France Internationale, she will prioritize innovative financing, agriculture, energy and economic governance.


Babes Wodumo

Bongekile Simelane, South African model, choreographer and songstress also known as Babes Wodumo broke into the music scene in 2016 with her hit single “Wololo” featuring Mampintsha, and broke the charts. “Wololo” quickly became the fourth most played local song on South African radio.

Her feature on “Redemption” from the highly anticipated Black Panther soundtrack, alongside Kendrick Lamar, Zacari and fellow South African artists Saudi, Yugen Blakrok and Sjava is definitely worthy of celebration.


Halima Aden for Allure 2017 July cover

Halima Aden was a six-year-old Somalian Muslim girl born in a Kenyan refugee camp until she moved to St. Cloud Minnesota where she became prom and homecoming queen of her high school, a semi-finalist in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, and made history as the first pageant contestant in the United States to wear a hijab and burkini. Halima was a semi-finalist in the pageant, but scored a contract with IMG Models—the first hijab-wearing model signed to a major modeling agency.

She also featured on Allure she was said to live a human life, and if there was symbolism to be read into her, it is in our work, not hers. “One thing to know before we continue: Not all Muslim women opt to cover their heads. “It’s how I interpret my religion,” Aden points out, “but there are women who are Muslim who choose not to wear the hijab. That’s something people often forget.”

As more women push beyond societal limits, we look forward to an economical, social and political clime that is favorable for all in the nearest future.