I have been inspired and motivated by stories of incredible men and women all over the world. These people have allowed me to look at life with hope and to be expectant at all times. To push past the status quo- to break the rules without getting into anyone’s way. Today’s blog focuses on the Top 5 African women whose struggles and triumphs have paved way for me and generations to come. I hope you are inspired too.
1.Tererai Trent (ZIMBABWE)
Tererai Trent (born 1965) is a Zimbabwean-American woman who came from a poor family. She could not go to school due to poverty and because she was a girl child. At a young age, she taught herself to read and write. She began to do her brother’s homework-his teacher discovered that his homework was better than his schoolwork. The teacher begged for her to go to school-she attended for a short period but later her father accepted a brideprice of a cow and married her off young. By the age of 18, she had 3 children and an abusive husband. In 1991 Heifer International visited her village and asked every woman about their greatest dream. Tererai said she wanted to go to America and get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and eventually a PhD. Encouraged by her mother, Tererai wrote down these dreams, put the paper in a scrap of tin and buried it.
In 1998, she moved to America with her husband and 5 children. After 3 years, she earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.2003 Tererai earned her master’s degree. After earning each degree, she would return to Zimbabwe unearth her tin and checked off each goal she accomplished one by one, in 2009 she finally earned her PhD.
In 2011 she was featured on Oprah’s show and Oprah revealed that Tererai is her all-time favourite guest.
Phiona Mutesi (born 1996) is a Ugandan chess player. She won the Ugandan Women’s Junior Championship three times and has represented Uganda at four Olympiads and she is one of the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history. She was born in Katwe, one of the largest of Kampala’s eight slums. At 3 years old, her father died and later at 9 years old she had to drop out of school because they could no longer afford to send her. To survive, she sold maize in Katwe street market. One day she followed her brother to a Christian and Sports mission in an after-school program run by Robert Katende and she began to play chess.
During her trip to the US, Phiona was offered a scholarship at Northwest University in Washington. She began her studies in 2017. The Disney movie Queen of Katwe is based on her life story.
3.WANGARI MAATHAI (KENYA)
Wangari Maathai (born 1940-2011) was an internationally renowned Kenyan environmental political environmentalist and Nobel laureate. She explained it like this: Imagine a country as a country with 3 legs. One leg represents democracy, a good government that respects mankind. Another represents peace. The final leg represents accountability, regard for our natural resources. Without the third leg, the base becomes unstable, the stool falls apart. The problem, she said, is that the stool is too often built on only 2 legs- the third is forgotten.”We do not have a broad sense of accountability and equal distribution of resources. The desire to consume…seems to outpace the sense of responsibility for our resource-intensive lifestyles”.
Wangari devoted her life to trying to correct this imbalance. She began in her home country of Kenya, where she observed women in the countryside struggling every day for basic needs water, food, an income. She realized there were very serious activities of deforestation, loss of soil that gradually destroyed the environment and impoverishing them. So she began to plant trees, in 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement and planted 50 million trees. In the process, the GMB trained 30 000 women in forestry and food processing, allowing them to earn their own income.
In 2004, Wangari received the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts, becoming the first African woman to do so.
4.THERESA KACHINDAMOTO (MALAWI)
Theresa Kachindamoto a woman from a noble traditional family in Malawi is saving young girls in the country from child marriage. Her dedicated passion towards the cause is a reason why she is dubbed the “Marriage Terminator”. She is a paramount chief or Inkosi, of the Dedza District in the central region of Malawi. She is known for her forceful action in dissolving child marriage and insisting on education for both boys and girls.
5.RUTH WILLIAMS KHAMA (BOTSWANA)
Ruth Williams Khama (born 1923-2002) was the wife of Botswana’s first President, Sir Seretse Khama. The Paramount Chief of its Bamangwato tribe. She served as the First Lady of Botswana from 1966-1980.
Ruth was born in Blackheath South London in England. In 1947 at a dance organised by the London Missionary Society, she was introduced to Prince Seretse Khama by her sister. Seretse was the son of a Paramount Chief and he was studying Law at Inner Temple in London. The couple loved jazz music and quickly fell in love. There plans to marry caused controversy both with the tribal elders and the South African government which had imposed the system of racial segregation also known as apartheid. Her family especially her father was also not supportive and was never involved in her life after she married Seretse.
The British government tried to intervene to break up the relationship but they eventually married at a Kensington register office in 1948, The Prime Minister of South Africa described it as “nauseating” and Julius Nyerere then a student teacher and later President of Tanzania said it was “one of the greatest love stories in the history of the world”. The people of Botswana were supportive but Seretse was called to London in 1950 and was prevented to go home and told he had to remain in exile.1951, Ruth joined him and they lived as exiles in Croydon in England.
The people of Botswana protested to this injustice, they believed Seretse had a right to marry whoever he wanted even if the South African government and the British government thought otherwise.1956 the people of Bamangwato sent a telegram to Queen Elizabeth II and the couple were allowed to return to Botswana. Seretse renounced his tribal thone and became a cattle farmer in Serowe. Ruth remained in Botswana after the death of her husband in 1980 and became recognised as Mohumagadi Mma Kgosi which means mother of the chief or queen mother. The movie The United States was based on their life story.