5 Female Role Models Every Girl Should Look Up To
On a recent flight from Johannesburg to Dakar, I ventured upon the movie “Suffragettes” as part of the movie selection on the plane. The film is directed by Sarah Gavron, and stars Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep. The movie depicted members of women’s organisations in England in the late-19th and early-20th centuries that advocated women’s right to vote. It was an inspiring hour and forty-six minutes.
I remembered that it wasn’t too long ago that women couldn’t actually vote! They also couldn’t go to university or even dream about one day becoming executives of multinational corporations! Today, women in many countries still face these challenges, but I believe we are winning the battle against the oppression of women. Each year in March, we are reminded of the restrictions women once faced, and we celebrate how far we’ve come.
At Africommunications Group (ACG), we want to conclude International Women’s Month by showcasing five women who have challenged the status quo to become role models for women on the African continent and beyond.
They are mothers, sisters, teachers, friends and, most importantly, women who have overcome the odds.
Khanyi Dhlomo, 41 – Managing Director of Ndalo Media and Entrepreneur
She was barely out of her teens when she made her biggest career move to become the editor of a top black women’s magazine, True Love. She headed the publication for 8 years before moving overseas for a couple of years. Upon returning to her native country, South Africa, in 2007, she launched Ndalo Media, a joint venture with Media24, one of the country’s leading media companies.
Today, Ndalo Media publishes Sawubona (SAA’s in-flight magazine), Destiny and Destiny Man magazines. It is also the home of DestinyConnect and DestinyMan.com, two of South Africa’s fastest-growing social networks for business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“I have had opportunities to work in the corporate world, but I’ve chosen not to at this point. I believe I can have far more impact creating jobs, helping women advance, and making a difference to society as an entrepreneur”.
In 2013, she flung wide the doors of Luminance, her luxury boutique department store in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. Luminance is the first boutique department store in the country – and the first in Africa – to have a comprehensive selection of international labels such as Oscar De La Renta, Carolina Herrera, DVF and Tom Ford, to name a few. Khanyi was named most influential woman in South African Media by The Media Magazine in 2003 and made the 2011 Forbes list of 20 Young Power Women in Africa.
Mo Abudu, 50 – CEO & Executive Chairman, Ebony-Life TV
As Mosunmula (Mo) Abudu continues to grow her media empire, she says she’s guided by the mantra;
“If you can think it, you can do it.”
Growing up in Kent, England, Mo was often faced with ignorance from the locals. Her family’s Nigerian roots, customs and way of life were often questioned. “You were continually asked the most ridiculous and mind-boggling questions like, ‘Do you live in trees and holes in Africa?’ ‘Do you dance around fires?’ and ‘What do you eat for breakfast?’” Mo says. “I think somewhere deeply buried in my subconscious was a need to tell Africa’s story”, she tells Essence Magazine.
This fuelled her interest in creating a TV show that would showcase African people’s myriad of cultures and interests.
Drawing inspiration from her DVD collection of the Oprah Winfrey Show, 2006 saw the debut of what later became Africa’s first syndicated daily talk show, Moments With Mo. Today, the show airs across a number of countries in Africa and the UK.
“I had seen a gap in the market for talk shows that were quintessentially African”.
In 2013, her network Ebony-Life TV was launched as Mo felt that Africa needed a greater platform to share its stories. With a reach and audience of more than 36 million viewers per month, Ebony-Life is home to a multitude of programs that target mainly a young, aspirational and trendy audience. The shows—which are a mix of original programming, like Chefrican, a cooking show, and local adaptations of international hits, such as Desperate Housewives Africa—have been wildly popular for the entertainment and lifestyle channel.
Funmi Iyanda, 44 – Award-winning broadcaster, Journalist, columnist and blogger
CEO of Ignite Media, a content-driven media organisation operating out of Lagos, Nigeria, Olufunmilola Aduke Iyanda, popularily known as Funmi Iyanda, has won incredible recognition for her work in the media. Not only a media mogul, she is a humanitarian and philanthropist as well as an African Leadership Institute Tutu Fellow, and a participant of the ASPEN Institute’s Forum for Communications and Society.
Adding to her list of accolades, in 2011 Funmi was honoured as a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum and has recently made history as the first African woman to receive an honorary fellowship from the University of Cumbria in recognition of her significant global contribution to human rights and sustainability.
“I will tell stories that contribute to the continued evolution of the human race”.
Her deep passion for sports was fuelled by her start in sports journalism as a fresh-out-of-varsity graduate. In 1999, Funmi made strides as one of the few Nigerian sports journalists to cover the female Football World Cup, the All Africa Games in Zimbabwe as well as the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens.
Ferial Haffajee, 39 – Journalist and newspaper editor
Tough and tenacious, Ferial Haffajee is one of the most respected and influential women in South African media.
She studied English and African literature, trained at the Weekly Mail’s cadet school and began her career as a cub reporter when the paper became the Mail & Guardian (M&G). At 22, Ferial was on a panel of journalists chosen to interview Nelson Mandela on his release in 1990.
“There was never anything else I wanted in my life besides being a journalist and to stay in the field of journalism. I was never attracted out of it. I’ve been here amongst the longest. I can’t quite believe that”.
Ferial worked for the M&G in various capacities throughout her career and in 2004, at 36, was appointed editor. She made history by becoming the first woman of colour to edit a national mainstream newspaper in South Africa. She steered the M&G to record circulation, while maintaining its reputation for courageous, quality journalism. In 2009, she took on the mammoth task of repositioning City Press. It now boasts 1.75 million readers, sets the weekly local news agenda and has a first-rate editorial team.
Julie Gichuru, 42– Entrepreneur, African media personality and Founder & CEO of Arimus Media Limited
Having been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 20 Young Power Women in Africa and in the WIE list of 60 most influential African women in the world, Julie Gichuru has quite an impressive résumé.
She is an entrepreneur, African media personality and the Founder/CEO of Arimus Media Limited, a production house focused on quality African content, and MIMI HOLDINGS LTD, a fashion retail business.
“One of our greatest responsibilities is to mentor and teach generations that follow us”.
Over the past 15 years, Julie’s career in the media has seen her work across the fields of broadcast, print and digital media. In 2000-2002, she ran a lifestyle magazine called Quest. Moving on to broadcast, she created and hosted a number of highly successful news and current affairs shows across a number of media houses. 2008 saw the introduction of the ground-breaking news show, Sunday Live with Julie Gichuru. Julie worked with a team at Citizen TV to conceptualize and host the cutting-edge news show which brought about a fresh style and delivery of news in Kenya. A year later, Julie went on to conceptualize and host another trailblazing programme, Fist to Five for Change. The show enabled reconciliation and healing for victims and perpetrators of post-election violence in Kenya.
Adding on to her résumé, Julie also established an impressive number of television shows, from the first Kenyan investigative TV series, The Inside Story, to various current affairs shows including the celebrated post-election peace specials Voices of Reason.
Ory Okolloh, 38 – Director of Investments, Omidyar Network Africa
As the Director of Investments at Omidyar Netwrok Africa and the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament, Ory Okolloh is a force to be reckoned with. She was named one of “100 most influential people in the world” by TIME magazine in 2014.
Ory serves as a trustee at the Millicom Foundation, she is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a member of the World Bank’s Council of Eminent Persons. She is also an advisory board member of Amnesty International, East Africa; Ory is on the Committee to Protect Journalists and is also a member of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program selection committee.
“For me, what has always been the most important aspect of the work we do has remained simple; building a tool that makes it easy for individuals and groups to tell their stories, and making it easy for these stories to be mapped/visualised”.
2011 was a triumphant year for Ory. Adding to her list of achievements, Ory was named one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy Magazine,
“Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum and one of Africa’s most “Powerful Women” by Forbes Magazine.