Trailblazers: celebrating six women who were ‘first’ in their fields

The Google Doodle created to mark the 73rd birthday of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai.
The Google Doodle created to mark the 73rd birthday of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai.
The Google Doodle created to mark the 73rd birthday of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai.

In this age where young African girls are more likely to find role models on TV or magazines, it is becoming increasingly worrying when many young African girls want to either be like Niki Minaj or Vera Sidika ( no offense to the two ladies) or the blond Disney princesses or the models they see in our pop media.

Africa is not lacking in women role models who have beat all prejudices to become trailblazers. These are women that have set themselves apart and set the bar high for the rest of us. These women have remarkable stories that would give everyone hope for the future. We highlight 6 of them.

1. DR.MARY OKELO
She is currently the director and founder of Makini schools, a well-known school in terms of performance. She was the first female bank manager in Kenya. This was a male-dominated field, even women could not access loans without a male signatory. So it was a big deal for a woman to rise up the ranks to such a position.

2. PROF.WANGARI MAATHAI
She was a woman popularly known for the Green Belt Movement. A movement whose aim was to help conserve the environment. The late Prof. Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace prize for her efforts in preserving the environment. Her efforts were not futile as she has indeed opened the eyes of several people to the alarming conditions of the environment.

3. PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF
She is the first elected and the only serving female head of a state in Africa. She was a finance minister in 1979-1980, in 1997 presidential elections she came second to Charles Taylor. In 2006, she was successfully elected president of Liberia and also re-elected in 2011.

4. TABITHA KARANJA
The founder and director of Keroche breweries. She got in to the not easily penetrable breweries market. She had to deal with a lot of negative publicity and raise from the muck that was threatening her brand to make a very lucrative business.

5. TAWAKKOL KARMAN
A female journalist that was the first Arab woman to win the Noble Peace Prize in 2011 for her outstanding work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work in Yemen. She has the selflessness to help and donated all the $500,000 to the Aid Fund for Families of Martyrs and Wounded in the Peaceful Revolution. An organisation that aids the people who were injured and families grieving for loved ones killed during the uprising.

6. Mae Carol Jemison
She is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She has appeared on television several times, including as an actress in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is a dancer, and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities. She is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship organization.

Worthy mention

Phillis Wheatley
(1753 – December 5, 1784) was both the second published African-American poet and first published African-American woman. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

All these women came from humble backgrounds and they have made it in their various fields. This is inspiring to most of us, we can make it if we do more than just try.

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