Each year, International Women’s Day draws attention to the inspiring stories of women worldwide who have defied the challenges of patriarchy to uplift themselves and tackle the gender inequalities that continue to persist. In a world where girls education in developing countries continues to be undermined, and women continue to remain economically disenfranchised, this day is crucial in acknowledging the persistent fight to end gender inequality.
And so in honor of this year’s International Women’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of 5 African women who despite the odds, have become leading entrepreneurs in their fields.
1.Faith Nafula Wafula
Faith was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, and obtained her degree in law from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. In 2013, Faith founded SEMA, an organization that aims to reduce gender inequality in Kenya through an initiative that targets girls and young adults between the ages of 13 and 25. Their objectives include changing stereotypes about gender issues and advocating for gender inclusion in the community, schools, and campuses.
2. Birikit Terefe Tiruneh
Birikit Terefe Tiruneh is a self-described feminist, social worker, and social entrepreneur. She is the executive director of the Women’s Health Association of Ethiopia (WHAE), a non-profit that focuses on economic empowerment of women in Ethiopia. WHAE invests in a small group of women over an extended period of time and trains them to carry out vital responsibilities in their community, including launching microfinance businesses and engaging in their community’s health programs.
At the age of 15, Winnifred Selby co-founded along with Bernice Dapaah Ghana Bamboo Bikes, an initiative that tackles poverty, climate change, and gender inequality issues by creating job opportunities (particularly for women) through building environmentally sustainable bikes from bamboo. Selby has since found international acclaim for her efforts, and has even been featured in TED talks. And if that isn’t enough, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has literally rode one of their bikes.
4. Lucy Kapkirwok
Lucy Kapkirwok is a Kenyan entrepreneur who founded SANPAD, an initiative that provides girls in rural areas with disposable panties that function simultaneously as underwear and menstrual pads. She was inspired to launch her business after growing up in a small village that often lacked hygenic menstrual products for young girls. She hopes that her business will facilitate reproductive health education and reduce the stigma against menstruation in small villages.
5. Victoria Kisyombe
After losing her husband unexpectedly in 1991, Dr. Victoria Kisyombe founded SELFINA, a Tanzanian company that provides micro-leasing to widows and young girls. Micro-leasing enables women who would otherwise be unable to obtain a loan launch and build their own businesses. Since launching the company, SELFINA has created 150,000 jobs and has provided 25,000 leases to women, among other accomplishments.
Happy International Women’s Day!