The world’s attention turns to more than half the planet’s human population.
The International Women’s Day is marked to celebrate the great strides women have made in various fronts of human endeavor, and highlight the fact that much remains to be done as far as achieving gender parity is concerned. This year, activities and discussions related to the day will revolve around the theme, Be Bold For Change. Its initiators intend it to be a rallying cry for the public to take action aimed at improving the living and working conditions of women across the world.
This is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on Nigerian women who have blazed the trail in their respective fields. Here’s a list of some of the country’s most influential women.
- Oby Ezekwesili
Administrator turned fierce campaigner. Obiagheli Ezekwesili gained the nickname “Madam Due Process” for spearheading the cleanup of government’s procurement process under the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration. She went on to serve as minister of solid minerals, and then federal Minister of Education. She was later appointed Vice President of the World Bank’s Africa division. In more recent times, Oby has been at the forefront of the bring Back Our Girls movement, a campaign front that calls for the rescue (or release) of school girls abducted from Chibok by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
- Abike Dabiri-Erewa
In her capacity as Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa has become known for her forthright declarations about the rights of Nigerians living abroad. She probably hasn’t put on a humanitarian garb just for the sake of looking impressive in public service; for fifteen years, she anchored the weekly television show NTA Newsnight on the National Television Authority, in which she featured life stories told from an overtly human angle. She opted out of her media career to delve into politics and served as a member of the House of Representatives representing Ikorodu constituency.
- Folorunsho Alakija
A billionaire oil baroness and business tycoon, Folorunsho Alakija features regularly on the annual Forbes rich list as one of Nigeria’s (and indeed Africa’s) richest people, and one of the richest black women in the world (Forbes currently estimates her wealth to be worth $1.63 billion). She started out with a fashion label which had Nigeria’s elite women as its customers and has since grown her business interest portfolio to include oil and gas.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda’s works have come to define a new generation of African literature, which one commentator has praised for drawing younger readers to the continent’s literary heritage. Starting in the early 2000s, her novels and short stories have been recognized the world over by critics and book lovers, and have won awards from international literary bodies.
- Blessing Okagbare
Blessing Okagbare is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s greatest living athletes. Her triumphs in the long jump and sprint events of major sporting competitions have made her a national hero. She set a new commonwealth 100 meters women’s record for the fastest time- 10.85 seconds –on the way to winning the 100m and 200m double at the games in 2014. Other events at which she has won medals include the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup, and World Relays.
- Genevieve Nnaji
Genevieve started her acting career as an eight-year-old when she played a role in the television soap opera Ripples. She went on to become one of Africa’s most recognizable actresses, starring in several popular movies; in 2009, American TV show host Oprah Winfrey called her “the Julia Roberts of Africa”. Genevieve also has a clothing line, St. Genevieve, which she launched in 2014.
Asa’s soulful music style captured the attention- and the hearts –of music lovers in Nigeria and Europe. The singer and songwriter has succeeded in giving traditional Nigerian melodies an international feel, and transporting them to parts of the world that perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise cared much for them. In 2008, she won the Prix Constantine, which is awarded in France to the best album that has come into prominence within the past year.
- Amina J. Mohammed
A champion of environmental causes, Amina Mohammed has been lauded for the work she did as Nigeria’s Minister of Environment. Her recent appointment as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations has been pointed to as a recognition of her accomplishments in the role she played in bringing about the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) while she served as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on post 2015 development planning.
- Tara Fela-Durotoye
Tara Fela-Durotoye started her beauty and makeup company, House of Tara, in her living room while she was still an undergraduate nearly two decades ago. It has since grown into an international brand, with stores set up across Nigeria. In 2013, Forbes listed her as one of 20 young pioneer women in Africa.
- Linda Ikeji
Linda Ikeji owes her influence to her blog, which she began as a gossip column. The former model’s blogging was at first only a hobby, but it became a widely appreciated one- the Linda Ikeji blog is the most widely read blog in Nigeria, curating news, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion, beauty and gossip stories.