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Christiana Thorpe is Sierra Leone’s first female Chief Electoral Commissioner. She serves as the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the entity with the sole authority to prepare and conduct all public elections. A former nun, school teacher, principal, and professor, she values education and freedom above all else. A former Minister of Education and the only female member of the Cabinet at that time, she launched an organization to promote women’s rights in education and the workplace during her tenure. Taking pride in her accomplishments, she inspires both women and men with her tenacity.
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As the first female Sub-Prefect Officer in the Guinean Navy, Captain Bontou Soumah has risen above discrimination and challenges to achieve her dream of becoming a seafarer. Living through sometimes choppy waters both in her career and her life, she has risen above the tides to be a top leader in the Navy. Climbing up the ranks, she eventually won the appointment of Officer and Chevalier of the Order of Merit of the Republic in 2005, by order of the President.
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Zahra Abdelnaieem is the head of Niswa, a network of community, religious and political leaders that connects with conflict-affected groups to work towards peace and reconciliation. The group also supports survivors of gender-based violence by linking them to medical, legal and community services. Though she has lost the people closest to her and endured incredible struggle to sustain the network, she overcomes obstacles by keeping a positive attitude and tenaciously continues to reach out to her community for strength.
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A messenger of peace, a mother of ten children and leader of the first Peace Hut and Women’s Empowerment Centre of Liberia, Annie Nushann is a household name in peacebuilding in her post-conflict country. With 17 Peace Huts and Women’s Empowerment Centres now in operation, 425 women leaders have been trained on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and economic empowerment, and some have even begun training others. Through training sessions on financial management and small business ownership, these Centres bring sustainable peace and a strengthened economy through women’s leadership.
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The founder and former editor of world-renowned newspaper, The Namibian, Gwen Lister has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. She established two newspapers, and is the winner of a long list of awards including the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Inter Press Service’s International Journalism Award. She was also honoured with the prestigious World Press Freedom Hero award by the International Press Institute. Using her media publications to advocate for Namibia’s independence, she has overcome attacks, slander and death threats to uphold her convictions.
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A true pioneer in the field of medicine, throughout her childhood she attended all boys’ schools to study science. Dr. Josephine Namboze is East and Central Africa’s first female medical doctor, and the first woman in Africa to head an institute of public health. As the first ever Representative for the World Health Organization in Botswana, she also wrote extensively about how race is not a determining factor in infectious and non-infectious disease. Also the first woman professor of medicine in East Africa, she didn’t just break the glass ceiling, but shattered it becoming a role model for many.
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As a youngster, she was often at her father’s side, discussing current affairs and the evening news. Her father would ask her to give him a recap of the evening news, and she wouldn’t miss out on this opportunity to show her knowledge, especially in a world that often ignored the visually impaired. Florence Ndagire became the first visually impaired lawyer in Uganda, a country that though modern in many ways, does not often create educational curricula and materials for the...
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On the islands of the archipelago that make up Cabo Verde, a country off the coast of western Africa, she is a household name. One of youngest Members of Parliament in the country, dynamic, bold, and passionate, Graça Sanches, became a parliamentarian at the age of 30 through sheer force of will. With her current role, she is also the President of the Network of Women Parliamentarians, a group that collaborates with relentless tenacity to ensure that women are included in policy and legislation planning. Graça Sanches acts as a galvanizing force for the National Assembly to include women’s voices at every turn.
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A household name in Sierra Leone, Isha Johansen is the first female President of Sierra Leone’s Football Association and currently, the only female Football Association President in the world.
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The stories of gang-rape, forced marriage and fathers being forced to rape their own daughters at gunpoint keep her awake at night. Saran Keïta Diakité has listened to countless women recount the atrocities that the people of her war-torn country (Mali) have endured at the hands of armed groups since a military coup d’état in March 2012. In April 2012, she was one of only a handful of women who took part in peace talks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – as women have slowly been making inroads at peace talks around the world.