As Pulse.com.gh focuses on 'Wonder Women' throughout the month of March, Pulse Writer, Mildred Europa Taylor brings you five women of African descent whose achievements helped shaped the direction of Africa positively.
As Pulse.com.gh focuses on 'Wonder Women' throughout the month of March, here are five women of African descent whose achievements helped shaped the direction of Africa positively.
1. Rosa Parks
Black seamstress Rosa Parks helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States after she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man on the 1st of December 1955.
Her action was considered a violation of the segregation laws that were in place at the time, causing her arrest, a court appearance and a $14 fine.
The leaders of the local black community, led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr subsequently organised a bus boycott that lasted more than a year, until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. Born in Alabama, an American state that was highly segregated in the 1950s, Rosa Parks later became recognised for her role in ending entrenched racial segregation.
Her husband, mother and brother all died of cancer between 1977 and 1979. In 1987, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, to serve Detroit’s youth.
She died at age 92 on October 24, 2005, becoming the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
2. Yaa Asantewaa
Yaa Asantewaa, the queen mother of Edweso (Ejisu) towards the turn of the 20th century, inspired Asante to fight the British after the British abducted the then Asantehene, King Prempeh I and the Edwesohene, Nana Afrane II.
She led the Ashanti-British "War of the Golden Stool" with an army of 5,000, after the British had demanded for the Golden Stool - a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire, in exchange for the then Asantehene, King Prempeh I.
Yaa Asantewaa took the initiative upon hearing that some of the king makers were willing to surrender to the British demands. Reports say that Queen mother, Yaa Asantewaa, upon hearing the king makers rose and said the following:
"Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King.
If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot.
No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.
Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!
I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."
Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British during the war between the two and later deported. Her bravery pushed for the return of Prempeh I and for independence.
Yaa Asantewaa’s mother, Ata Po, and father Kwaku Ampoma, were both from Ampabame near Besease in Ejisu. Yaa Asantewaa and her brother, Kwasi Afrane were Asona royals of the Besease lineage of the Edweso stool. Yaa Asantewaa later married Owusu Kwabena of Kantinkyiren near Trede. He was a paternal grandson of Asantehene Osei Yaw (1824–33). Their union produced only one child, a daughter called Ama Sewaa Brakatu.
3. Miriam Makeba
Miriam "Zenzil" Makeba, a world-known South African singer and political activist, was born near Johannesburg on March 4, 1932, to Caswell, a schoolteacher, and Christina, a domestic worker. Known as “Mama Africa,” Miriam exposed Western audiences to African music and championed the struggle against apartheid.
When Makeba was 18 days old, her mother was arrested for brewing and selling beer, which was deemed illegal at the time. Makeba served six months in jail with her mother, Nomkomendelo. Her five other siblings moved in with their grandmother near Pretoria.
Internationally known for songs such as “Pata Pata” and one known as the “Click Song” in English (“Qongqothwane” in Xhosa), Makeba made 30 original albums, including 19 compilation albums and appearances on the recordings of several other musicians.
She was exiled from South Africa for 31 years due to her stance on apartheid, but was later encouraged to return in 1990 by black activist-turned-president Nelson Mandela. She continued to perform in subsequent years, and later died of a heart attack shortly after giving a concert in Italy in 2008.
Makeba married four times, with one child, who is also deceased.
4. Oprah Winfrey
Influential talk show host, author, philanthropist, actress and media personality, Oprah Winfrey has been an important role model for black American women, breaking down many invisible barriers.
Coming from a poor background in Mississippi, over the years, she has been able to build up a media empire, the flagship of which is her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In recent years, the Oprah Winfrey show has focused on issues of self-improvement, spirituality and self-help, as well as issues relating to Diet.
Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, Oprah founded her own production company, Harpo ("Oprah" spelt backwards), and invested in assisting victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to become a multimillionaire, and was the richest African American person of the 20th century.
Forbes magazine had also indicated that she was the most powerful celebrity in the world in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
5. Waris Dirie
Waris Dirie was just five when she became a victim of female genital mutilation, the major combat of her life. The daughter of Somali nomads, Waris Dirie fled her country on foot at the age of 13 to escape an arranged marriage with a 60-year-old man. She later moved to London where she was spotted by a photographer while working at McDonald's. By the 1990s, her career as an international model had began, as she was found fronting Chanel campaigns and later appeared in the James Bond film The Living Daylights.
Waris Dirie later began a campaign against female genital mutilation, explaining publicly to the media in 1997 about the female circumcision she was subjected to, and why the practice has to stop.
Kofi Annan in that same year appointed her as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.
She created the Waris Dirie Foundation in 2002, and continues to fight against female genital mutilation across the world.
In January 2013, in Berlin, Dirie opened the first of what will be several medical centres to offer women who have endured FGM reconstructive surgery.
She was later awarded in the House of Lords in London, with the prestigious "Liberal International Prize for Freedom 2015" for her groundbreaking work with her Desert Flower Foundation, to eradicate FGM.
Waris Dirie is now 51, and has four children.