1. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first woman president (Liberia)
The Harvard educated leader made history by becoming Africa’s first female president in 2006. The leader shared her 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman for “their non violent struggle for the safety of women, and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” (Nobel Peace Prize)
2. Cesária Évora – Musician (Cape Verde)
The Grammy award winning singer is known for appearing on stage with her bare feet in support of Cape Verde’s homeless, poor women and children. She sang in a style of music called “morna“, which combines West African percussion with Portuguese “fado“, Brazilian modinha and British sea shanties.
3. Gisèle Rabesahala -Malagasy politician (Madagascar)
Rabesahala was the first Malagasy woman to be elected as a municipal councillor (1956), political party leader (1958), and to be appointed minister (1977). The lauded leader also founded Imongo Vaovao newspaper, and is best known for dedicating her life to Madagascar’s independence, and advocating for human rights.
4. Miriam Makeba – Musician and apartheid activist (South Africa)
The Grammy award winner openly opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime, and lost her citizenship because of she was an activist. “Mama Africa” introduced the world to South African music, and political struggles.
The South African Grammy award winner was an activist and important voice during the fight to end apartheid.