Reflecting on We Will Lead Africa: Women

“Writers from all minority groups, and women writers, and those from colonized nations—all of us who have been spoken for, instead of listened to, have had to seize our own narratives.” Aminatta Forna

In reflection, I see this volume putting into words the experience of constraints and challenge that women navigate in the world: restricted, underestimated, not allowed, undermined, violated… and it also speaks to our personal challenges of feeling scared, not enough, an imposter. But the volume does more. These voices, these words, these stories, are about action and impact in the face of all this.These women speak courageously and defiantly, of doing it anyway. Despite. They show us the power of faith, of doing it together, of pulling each other up, of partnering or co-founding with other women. They describe what it means to draw inspiration and motivation from those around us, those who have gone before, and those who will follow. And whilst these are stories of African women, they also bring to light how the other layers of our identity are intricately connected to our struggles and achievements. These are stories of women, and they are, at the same time, stories for and about all of humanity. It is an honour to hear all these voices and it is with true gratitude that we share them with the world. I hope these stories move you in the way they have moved me: to begin, to persevere, to be purposeful, to be bold, to take action, to rest, to trust, to connect and be in community, and to be yourself – your whole self.


In the process of putting these stories together, I had a conversation with a woman whom I deeply admire who is an innovator in her industry. She spoke about the idea of feeling insecure and crippled by an impending challenge. In reflecting on her journey to create alternative narratives she was reminded of the value and depth of her contribution to the African continent -both present and future . This volume is a reminder to us all of the incredible women who are overcoming fear and insecurity; emotional and otherwise on a daily basis. It is a reminder and invitation to acknowledge the challenges and continue to create pockets of representation of a new reality, a reality exploding with light and hope.


I am humbled and inspired after reading these stories that illustrate the solidarity, and differences; diverse experiences and the commitment of women across a wide range of contexts and countries, to Africa’s future. Stories are influenced by Ancestors, elders, Spirit, mentors, mothers, and relationships to make each achievement part of a larger whole. These are stories of women leaders’ determination to be part of creating and nurturing Africa’s growth. Women bring grit, creativity, vision, caring, intelligence and passion to shape the mystery of what it means to be a Woman; what it means to be African and to have Africa in you.


In our last week of finalizing this volume, I was part of leading an event where there was a talk on the Courageous Leadership needed for the future[1]. Although speaking in an entirely different context, I heard the speaker reference all the elements of our We Will Lead Africa framework – A focus on serving the collective, grit and leading at the margins, with, and on purpose. There was an additional quality that she said women struggle with, but when they find that quality, their impact is exponential. That quality, is the ability to be uncalcified to the norms expected of women: willing to be different, do different, and say yes to something she may have no idea how to do. Uncalcified! The word would not leave me – and as I thought of what makes the women in this volume follow the paths they have chosen to courageously lead in African contexts, it is because they are, Uncalcified! Positively defiant. So to me, the stories in this volume are ultimately about passion, identity, courage and positive impact. It has prompted me into an inquiry that I invite you to as we conclude: In what ways do we need to become (more) uncalcified in order to achieve the positive impact we want on the world?


As We Will Lead Africa Women launches, gratitude for the women ancestors who were and are so it could be. Toasting to our mothers, and their mothers, and we too as we do the work that ensures the future for our descendants.



[1] Talk on Courageous Leadership trends/needs in Canada by Joyce Drohan of Deloitte Canada, May 8, 2019

Introducing…We Will Lead Africa, Volume 2: Women

We are filled with such deep gratitude for the work represented in:

We Will Lead Africa


This volume is filled with the stories of everyday African women – leaders – with a desire to bring a vibrant future to life – one that is full, and manifold, and representative.

This work emerged out of a call for everyday African leadership stories for two separate volumes: Women and Governance. As we pushed out calls for stories, the pattern became clear. We were not receiving enough governance stories as defined by the Ibrahim Index of African Governance…and all the Governance stories we received were by women! In responding to what has emerged, we decided to create a combined volume of stories by African women.

It seems appropriate to us to be publishing this volume, this year, as we come towards the end of the African Union’s 2010 – 2020 AFRICAN WOMEN’S DECADE. As the generational spread of the women in the volume signals, African Women’s contributions to the prosperity of our continent has always been there and will continue to be amplified in the future. We also recognize that without the active inclusion and voice of women, Africa will never reach its full potential. Documenting our stories in all their breadth and beauty, will bring new perspectives and possibilities and will provide a space of inspiration and togetherness for a future that values, respects and learns from African women.

As always, we were looking for stories of leadership that align with our definition of everyday leadership and action for the future of Africa[1]:

We: Collaborative and accountable leaders, taking unified action.

Will: The leadership WILL, grit and courage to do something, anything, now and for the future, demonstrated through action-oriented and aspirational leadership.

Lead: Everyday leaders, motivated by service, in every sector, including emerging leaders from marginalised groups. Women with a deep authenticity and integrity in their leadership, focused on a values-driven path, even if it is challenging.

Africa: A focus on a prosperous continent, where divides are bridged and leaders work across boundaries and borders to achieve a broader success.

However, curating this volume was challenging… we, editorial team of this volume, each had personal and professional challenges. We balance our “day-jobs”, our families and responsibilities. Yet we continued to move forward, fueled by our desired to share our voice and to lead. This too was part of the process – as we received and reviewed stories, we encountered these same challenges in the African woman’s balancing act of life. We were living out the exact challenges our contributors also experience on a regular basis and give voice to in their stories.

The collective of these inspiring women leaders revealed some highlights of note:

  1. Our final volume includes 32 submissions by 36 contributors.
  2. We received a strong response from people of South African heritage, especially in academia. We included nine contributions that met the eligibility for the volume.
  3. Submitters represented all regions of the continent, many of whose work cuts across multiple countries on the continent and diaspora. The multi-racial, intersectional and diverse nature of our continent is evident in this small slice of 32 stories as it was in volume one.
  4. The stories in this volume cover a range of industries and topics for Africa’s advancement. Many of the stories cut across multiple sectors. How do you categorize leaders running awareness/advocacy platforms who are also artists and business women? A novel writer who is also an entrepreneur? Academics who are also mentors and community role models? These stories cannot be put in a box. So, we offer them in the following groupings only as a guide to the reader:
  • Six Influencers – These women are shaping domestic and international policies in public sector, gender, agriculture, trade and information technology. In this section, you will meet: Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Baratang Miya, Seno Namwandi, Eileen Bogweh Nchanji, Nitasha Ramparsad and Nomusa Taylor-Dube.
  • Three Health Innovators – Here you will meet the sister-team Yasmine and Heba Aguib who are advancing health research and innovation and catch a glimpse of the health advocacy happening on the continent through the stories of Vanessa Adebayo and Taíla Carrilho.
  • Six Entrepreneurs & Business Women – These women are leading the way in business, as well as creating opportunities for other girls and women. Meet Lynda Aphing-Kouassi, Sara Fakir & Tatiana Pereira, Ijangolet S. Ogwang, Sandra Onwuekwe, Bezawit Shewarega and Wacelia M. Zacarias Zualo.
  • Five Educators – These women span generations, showing that African women have and continue to leave their mark in the African Academy. Meet Stella Bvuma, Tshepiso Maleswena, Mbuywana Mbikusita-Lewanika, Audrey Msimanga and Tracey L. McCormick.
  • Five Bridge Builders – These women are creating platforms to enable and facilitate opportunities and spaces for other women to learn and grow together, support each other and gain access to opportunities that seemed beyond reach now. Meet Marcia Ashong, Vuyi Chaza, Marina Diboma, Kebone Moloko & Siyabonga Ntuli & Buyelwa Xundu and Diana Wilson.
  • Seven (De)Constructors – These leaders cross the arenas of Sports, Arts and Pan-Africanism. The stories are about women disrupting status quo narratives for social impact. They are pioneers for change in the fabric and culture of African identities. They are the stories of Marcia Tate Arunga, Celma Costa, Elizabeth Mwambulukutu, Dorothy J J Okatch, Caroline Pouw via Lydia Radoli, Peace Hilary Tumwesigire and Maame Afon Yelbert-Sai.

This volume exemplifies the We Will Lead Africa ethos and expresses the variety, creativity and magic that the inclusion of women brings. We are proud that this volume was wholly curated by African women – in addition to our editorial team and the contributors, we thank and acknowledge Romy Gad el Rab for her work on cover design with photos supplied by contributor, Elizabeth Mwambulukutu, Oni Aningo for her poetic submission of Steel Magnolia for our prologue and Cheryl S. Ntumy for her science fiction submission of the History of Her to help us imagine future possibilities for girls’ and women’s lives in our epilogue.

The volume will be available on Amazon on Africa Day, 25 May, 2019. We hope you get it and can promise that you will leave the reading of this volume as inspired as we have been in the curating and editing of it. They are stories of pain and triumph in a world that still underestimates and undervalues the contribution of women, and in which African women are often further unrecognized. We applaud every woman whose story is represented here.

In Service and Leadership,

Sarah Owusu,

Yabome Gilpin-Jackson,

Chenge Maruziva,

Moyra Keane.

[1] Gilpin-Jackson, Y. (2016). African Leadership: Now and for the Future, in Quist-Adade and Royal (Eds.), Re-engaging the African Diasporas: Pan-Africanism in the Age of Globalization. Cambridge Scholars