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African Women: A Celebration of Achievements

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NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS 2011
AP

As an African woman, I declare: The Nobel Prize got it right, it celebrated three African women. Two Liberians and one Yemeni woman were honored. Two grassroots leaders -- women's rights activist Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen and one president -- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won this year's Peace Prize. It showed that the Nobel Committee understood.

African women are doing the work in the trenches. Thank you for honoring the real work that goes on across Africa. We often forget the doers and usually acknowledges the talkers.

South African author Sindiwe Magona writes about African women, "one day they will come into their own". Writer, Adeola James in her introduction to In Their Own Voices (James 1990), said "we have listened so rarely to women's voices, the noises of men having drowned us out in every sphere of life, including the arts." The world needs to listen, most especially Africa. It is time.

African women are no longer quiet and simple, we are alive, vibrant and complex. Women like Nigerian Obiageli Ezekwesili, a World Bank Vice President who was appointed in 2007 to steer the bank's work on Africa. She recently said it is "time to invest in Africa and Africa's capital markets." She is in her own twitter bio, "a ferociously passionate believer in the public good of nations, serving before leading." She is smart, decisive and daring. And it is a pleasure to watch and listen to her. She has Africa's back, even when the World Bank drags its feet.

This year, we lost a green leader in Kenya's Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who died last month at 71, also a Nobel Prize Winner. She dared to make Kenya Green. We celebrate her work in Kenya and wait for the next woman to take her place.

Another Kenyan who has the taken the Africa into the next realm is Ory Okolloh, the founder of Ushahidi, an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. She is now Google's policy manager for Africa, and I hope with her lead and sensitivity, Africa will get better deals with Google.

Going against the grain and exploring the way forward for Africa is Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian Economist. She dared to go against Jeffrey Sachs (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/moyos-confused-attack-on_b_208222.html). I celebrate her courage to think outside the box -- and I agree with her -- Africa Aid is a problem for Africa.

Angelique Kidjo from the country of Benin, a Grammy-award winning musician, is one of Africa's women with the vision and probably the hardest working musicians who is open to collaborations. I celebrate her audacity to work with people and produce fabulous music. I smile when I see her, she is Africa's spiritual sister, mother and friend. I have always seen her another Mama Africa, just like Miriam Makeba.

Akua Sena Dansua is a Ghanaian Minister of Tourism who will be redefining what tourism is for Ghana. A former journalist who is media-saavy, she recently attended Branding Africa, a conference in South Africa and will focus on re-branding Ghana. She left a controversial position as Sports minister after she had a string of clashes with sports journalists in the country. I think, she is finally where her skills lie - reshaping the media image of Ghana.

Alek Wek, a Sundanese model, broke the norm in non-stereotypical looks for African models, she became an it girl at 18 after featuring in Tina Turner's and Janet Jackson's music videos. She is the real Africa, with a look that can be make you turn on the streets. This Sudanese-born supermodel fled her conflict-ridden country to find fame and fortune on the catwalk. I celebrate her ability to stand strong in a room of blondes and brunnettes. She is regal.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is again Nigeria's Finance Minister, again. And, may I say it, Nigeria is lucky to bring her expertise back from the World Bank where she was Managing Director. She is known in Nigeria for the new fiscal discipline she brought to the nation's finances and arranged the cancellation of US$18 billion of Nigeria's debt to the Paris Club, a group of creditor nations, in 2005. I celebrate her return and look forward to the changes she will implement.

Africa has many more women, I dare to name a few and celebrate the work they have done for Africa. There are others out there working in the trenches, they will be many more.

Around the Web

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Nobel honors African, Arab women for peace | Reuters

Wangari Maathai - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia