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Today marks International Women’s Day and we celebrate Africa’s trailblazing Women who are breaking barriers in music, sports, business, and humanitarianism.

Angèlique Kidjo

Women Singing

Source: Facebook

Angelique Kidjo has moved from being a local singer to becoming a global music icon. As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.

Kidjo, on the other hand, is a passionate advocate for children’s education, lending her voice to UNICEF and OXFAM. She even started her own foundation, Batonga, to champion girls’ education across Africa’s far-flung communities.

Her dedication has been recognized on a global scale. Throughout her career, Kidjo has received five Grammy Awards, solidifying her place as a musical powerhouse.  She has also been included on prestigious lists by publications like Time Magazine and Forbes, solidifying her status as one of the most influential people in the world. 

Additionally, organizations like Amnesty International have honored her humanitarian efforts with the Ambassador of Conscience Award. Her artistic achievements haven’t gone unnoticed either, with awards like the Crystal Award and the prestigious Polar Music Prize earned her recognition across the global music scene.

Folorunso Alakija

Source: Facebook

From fashion stylist to oil tycoon, Folorunso Alakija, a highly accomplished Nigerian businesswoman, wears many hats. From a leader in the oil industry to a real estate specialist.

Her journey is remarkable. After starting in secretarial and banking roles, she pursued her passion for fashion. Her boutique, Supreme Stitches, blossomed into a renowned brand, Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. Today, Alakija championed Nigerian fashion as National President of the Fashion Designers Association.

Despite her success, Alakija’s impact extends beyond business. She is also a renowned speaker, author, and philanthropist, advocating for education and social causes.  This self-made billionaire is a true inspiration for many other young women across the African continent.

Manal Rostom

Source: Facebook

Manal Rostom, a 42-year-old mountaineer and marathon runner based in Dubai, has achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first Egyptian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Confirming her accomplishment in a live Instagram video from Everest base camp, Rostom expressed her pride in this monumental achievement, emphasizing that it was the most challenging endeavor of her life.

The expedition, organized by Climbing the Seven Summits, revealed that Rostom successfully summited Everest on May 16 2022 in favorable weather conditions. In a 30-minute video, she shared the emotional and physical struggles faced during the ascent, including moments of difficulty breathing and encounters with the harsh realities of extreme altitude, passing by two deceased climbers.

Rostom’s feat holds significance beyond personal accomplishment, as she takes pride in representing Egyptian women on the world’s highest peak. Over her athletic career, she has previously conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Elbrus, along with completing marathons in major cities worldwide.

Known for her collaboration with Nike, Rostom became the first hijab-wearing woman to feature in the company’s advertisement. This partnership led to the development of a Nike athletic hijab, marking a positive step towards inclusivity in sportswear. Beyond her athletic pursuits, Rostom is an advocate addressing discrimination against women who wear the hijab, founding the Facebook group Surviving Hijab in 2014.

Her accomplishment follows in the footsteps of other Middle Eastern climbers, such as Omar Samra, the first Egyptian to summit Everest in 2007, and Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to reach the peak in 2013. Manal Rostom’s journey serves as an inspiring testament to resilience, breaking barriers, and promoting inclusivity in the world of adventure sports.

By: Yahuza Bawage

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