The BBC released its annual 100 women 2021 list of inspiring and influential women from around the world. Here’s a list of African women who made the BBC 100 women 2021 list:
BBC produces the list annually to highlight influential women from all over the world.
This year 100 Women is highlighting those who are hitting “reset” – women playing their part to reinvent our society, our culture and our world – BBC.
The first hijab-wearing supermodel, Halima Aden is a Somali by descent but was born in a refugee camp in Kenya. In 2017, she signed to one of the world’s biggest modelling agencies, IMG Models, adding a clause to her contract that she would not be asked to take off her hijab when modelling.
She was the first model to wear a hijab on the cover of British Vogue, Allure and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. Aden campaigns to improve awareness and visibility for Muslim women and was a Unicef ambassador for children’s rights.
In 2020, she stepped away from modelling as she found it incompatible with her Muslim faith, but she continues to make an impact within the fashion industry and beyond.
Criminal lawyer and founder of the all-women law firm Headfort Foundation, which offers pro-bono legal services.
Based in Lagos, the four-person legal team visits prisons to help poor and wrongly incarcerated inmates who are unable to get bail, as well as citizens enduring long pre-trial detentions (in Nigeria, those awaiting trial make up about 70% of the prison population). Oluyemi Adetiba-Orija and her team focus on under-age offenders, offering them another chance at life outside prison.
Since it started operating in 2018, the foundation has provided free legal assistance to more than 125 people charged with minor offences.
Sevidzem Ernistine Leikeki
Using beekeeping as a strategy to control bushfires, the organisation that Sevidzem Ernestine Leikeki founded has trained more than 2,000 bee farmers in honey production, quality control and beeswax extraction, and has planted more than 86,000 “bee-loving” trees to fight deforestation.
Leikeki is a founding member of Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch, which focuses on the country’s environmental issues and especially the role of women in natural resource management.
She believes forests can be conserved through community-wide efforts, such as the 20,000-hectare Kilum-Ijim Forest project in the north-west of the country.
A nurse for more than 10 years, Mulu Mefsin currently works at the One Stop Centre in Mekelle, the regional capital of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region. The centre offers medical, psychological and legal services to victims of sexual abuse and violence.
Three years ago, Mefsin started campaigning for an end to violence against young girls and women in Tigray, an issue that has become increasingly pressing since the current civil war began in late 2020.
Despite suffering trauma herself, nurse Mefsin wants to continue her work in the hope that peace will one day be restored.
Affectionately known as Doctor T, she is a medical doctor and rights activist for women’s sexual and reproductive health, who advocates for universal health access, HIV care and family-planning services.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng is currently the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health – the first woman, the first African, and one of the youngest people to hold this position. She is also the best-selling author of Dr T: A Guide to Sexual Health and Pleasure.
Mofokeng was one of the 2016 winners of the 120 Under 40 award for young champions of family planning, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.
Taking on the male-dominated world of motocross, or off-road motorcycle racing, Tanya Muzinda has become her country’s off-road circuits champion. She is the first Zimbabwean woman to win a motocross championship since the competition started in 1957.
Inspired by her father, a former biker, she started training when she was five. Now 17, Muzinda hopes to be the first black African to win a women’s motocross world championship. In 2018, she was crowned junior sportswoman of the year by the African Union.
With her motocross earnings, she engages in charitable work, paying tuition for around 100 students to attend school in Harare.
Chimamda Ngzoi Adichie
An acclaimed Nigerian author and feminist icon whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie moved to the US at the age of 19 to pursue a degree in communication and political science.
Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003, won a Commonwealth Writers’ prize and in 2013 her novel Americanah was named one of The New York Times’s top 10 books.
Adichie’s landmark TED Talk in 2012, We Should All Be Feminists, started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014. She recently wrote Notes on Grief (2021), a very personal tribute to her father after his sudden death.
Award-winning journalist Lynn Ngugi is known for her work on the Tuko digital news platform, where she covered a wide array of inspiring human-interest stories.
She first worked as a volunteer, caring for cancer patients, and in 2011 she began a media career with Kiwo films and later with the Qatar Foundation. Ngugi is also regarded as a social-media influencer and a celebrated media personality in her own country.
She won the Cafe Ngoma humanitarian journalist of the year award in 2020 and this year’s iChange Nations community ambassador award.
She became one of Africa’s youngest cabinet ministers – aged 23 at the time of her appointment – last year. Emma Inamutila Theofelus is a member of parliament and deputy minister for information and communication technology, with the task of leading the country’s official Covid-19 communication efforts.
Before that, she was a youth activist, campaigning for gender equality, children’s rights and sustainable development, a speaker in the youth parliament and junior mayor of the City of Windhoek, where she was born.
Theofelus holds a law degree from the University of Namibia and a diploma in African feminism and gender studies from the University of South Africa.
Iman Le Caire
A contemporary dancer at the Cairo Opera House and a choreographer, Iman Le Caire had to flee Egypt because of police persecution as an LGBTQ+ person. She moved to the US in 2008, was granted asylum and now lives in New York as a dancer, actor and LGBTQ+ activist.
Le Caire is Arabic relations manager and a board member of TransEmigrate, a European organisation that helps transgender people relocate to safer countries.
In March 2021, she launched her own foundation, Trans Asylias, whose mission is to “transplant trans asylum seekers to trans-friendly territories” and provide emotional support.
A leading figure in the world of artificial intelligence (AI), Jamila Gordon is the founder of Lumachain, a pioneering platform which uses AI to connect broken links in global food-supply chains.
Born in a Somali village, she was sent by her family to Kenya while still a teenager to escape a civil war in her home country. She then moved to Australia and developed a love for technology. Before launching Lumachain, Gordon served as a global executive for IBM and group chief information officer for Qantas.
She was Microsoft’s global awardee at the 2018 International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge and was named Australia and New Zealand’s 2021 innovator of the year in the Women in AI awards.