Meet 8 Extraordinary Black Women Championing Girls’ Education Globally

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Education for girls remains a topical issue worldwide due to its critical role in helping girls lead healthy and productive lives. But despite evidence demonstrating how central girls’ education is to development, gender disparities in education persist. 

However, some Black women like Oprah Winfrey have picked up the mantle to correct this injustice. The first Black woman billionaire has used her financial power to provide excellent, high-quality education and skills that prepare girls for the future.

 Through her Oprah’s Angel Network, she has raised more than $80 million, established 60 schools across 13 countries, and created scholarships, among other philanthropic acts.  

Indeed, Winfrey’s contributions to girls’ education are commendable, but she’s not alone in this cause. Join AMAKA to recognise several other women like her who have made it their life’s mission to endorse quality education and ensure that girls are not left out of the equation.  

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Known internationally as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman to lead an African country when she became president of Liberia in 2005.  A year after she took office, she led Liberia to join the Global Partnership for Education. With this move, she enacted a long-term education sector plan that focused on expanding and improving the quality of preschool and primary education.

By executive order, Sirleaf also established a right to free, universal elementary education and enforced equal rights for women, which had been routinely ignored and abused during the chaotic years of the Liberian civil war. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011 for her contribution to securing peace in Liberia, promoting social and economic development, and strengthening the position of women.

Also, when the Ebola crisis struck Liberia, and she was faced with the imperative to close schools, she worked hard to reopen the schools in early 2015. Sirleaf has demonstrated her compassion and commitment throughout her career, fighting for women’s rights and advocating for education, justice, and equality.

She believes that “ensuring that every child goes to school, stays in school and learns something of value will require firm commitments and action by governments to invest in education and prioritise the education of its girls.”

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Mamokgethi Phakeng is the first Black South African woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematics education and the second to be the University of Cape Town’s Vice-Chancellor. Phakeng established Adopt-A-Learner in 2004, a nonprofit organisation that provides mentorship and financial support for rural learners.

She also established the Mamokgethi Phakeng Scholarship to empower Black women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Phakeng funds the organisation with 10% of her monthly salary. Yearly, at least five students receive 100% wrap-around funding from the Mamokgethi Phakeng Scholarship Fund.

In September 2022, Phakeng won the new Africa Education Medal, which recognised her “impact, leadership, and advocacy in the field of African education”. According to her, if she could achieve one thing for South Africa, it would be to create “a sense of urgency in our young people about succeeding in higher education.”

Angélique Kidjo

Five-time Grammy winner and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo is the founder of the Batonga Foundation, which focuses on empowering young African women and girls through secondary school and higher education.

Batonga strives to enhance school facilities, boost enrollment, provide scholarships, give in-kind aid and microloans to the families of scholars. The organisation also develop mentorship and tutoring programmes and promote community understanding of the importance of education for girls.

A passionate campaigner for children’s rights, climate change and girls’ education, Kidjo has travelled widely to advocate for UNICEF-supported programmes. She has been a regular feature of International Women’s Day events, and in 2013, she performed in London at the Women of the World Festival.

She is a member of the Global Emergency Coalition for Education Action. The singer dedicated her 2015 Grammy Award to women of Africa. and since March 2009, has been campaigning for “Africa for women’s rights,” launched by The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

Zuriel Oduwole

Filmmaker, Zuriel Oduwole, was inspired to become an activist after creating a documentary for a school competition. At age ten, she was featured in Forbes magazine for her early work in the girls’ education environment. In 2013, Oduwole launched her “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” campaign to get more African girls into school.

When she was 15, the young filmmaker was named an ambassador for the Sahara Foundation to stand up for girls’ rights across Africa. The Foundation partnered with her Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up programme to improve access to education, promote gender equality and create more opportunities for girls.

Oduwole Oduwole has used films and documentaries highlighting the plight of school children in Africa. In addition to her work on education, she focuses on climate change and how it will impact the future of girls’ education. The budding filmmaker is the brains behind the DUSUSU Awards, recognising First Ladies and gender ministers who do more to promote girls’ education. 

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama believes that a girl with an education can shape her destiny and transform her community. This ideology prompted her to launch Let Girls Learn in 2015, a U.S. initiative that provides girls with quality education and helps them reach their full potential.

The feminist non-governmental organisation works directly with communities, girls’ parents, caregivers, health care service providers, and governments at all levels to create a sustainable ecosystem for girls and young women.

Under the Obama Foundation, Michelle Obama initiated the Global Girls Alliance and started the Reach Higher endeavour, inspiring high school graduates to attend a tertiary institution. She urged international leaders to show commitment by providing education for girls. She also encouraged teenage girls to take education seriously, pointing out that girls in many areas of the world are not afforded this luxury.

“If we truly believe that every girl in every corner of the globe is worthy of an education as our own daughters and granddaughters are, then we need to deepen our commitment to these efforts,” the former First Lady said during her keynote speech held on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly in 2014.

And true to her word, her passion did not expire after she left the White House. She has remained a steadfast champion for girls’ education worldwide.

Ashley Obasi

Ashley Obasi’s motivation for creating Black Girls Graduate in 2013 came after her father’s death. She was still in college at the time, and according to her, something felt different when she returned to campus. Over time, she found her groove again, and this was when she knew she wanted to help make a difference in the lives of other young Black women like herself in pursuing higher education.

Co-founded with her sister, Ijeamaka Obasi, and her best friend, Tikkara Cooper, Ashley Obasi’s Black Girls Graduate has celebrated women of colour who graduate from colleges and universities. An online resource dedicated to improving educational attainment among Black women, Black Girls Graduate aims to be the first place Black girls and young women look to for inspiring content to motivate them to reach their full potential.

They also provide resources for career advice, scholarship opportunities, job and internship leads, and a space to revel in the accomplishment of being Black and educated. 

Nomzamo Mbatha

Through her Lighthouse Foundation and in partnership with Hollywood Bets, South African actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Nomzamo Mbatha donated R1 million (about $65,400) in early 2021 to help children pay their school fees and other education-related expenses. 

She also became an ambassador for the Cotton On Foundation, an enterprise that delivers education projects for children in Australia, South Africa, Thailand, and Uganda. Nomzamo Mbatha was announced as the first South African Cotton On Foundation ambassador at the official opening of the Ethekwini Primary School in the KwaMashu community, 

Nomzamo Mbatha uses her experiences to drive her advocacy for young people to access quality education regardless of their financial or personal circumstances.  

Peace Ayo

At the age of 15, Peace Ayo, alongside her father, co-founded Youth Advocate for Sustainable Development, an organisation to help girls in the Waru community in Nigeria attend school. She was moved to act after witnessing how poverty, child marriage, and expensive tuition fees forced her peers out of the classroom.

Her organisation helps parents understand the importance of education in the lives of children. Ayo also addresses the obstacles that keep girls in Nigeria out of school by advocating against gender biases. In addition, she champions a campaign to make sanitary towels accessible and provide girls with school scholarships.

In 2018, she took her fight for girls’ education to London, where she joined the Malala Fund at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. 

#Amaka #Rosepanafricaneducation #Education #Global #Globaleducation #blackwomen

Senegal – Today the old and the new – PART 1

Day at the beach with Amina and Freddie

I made my first trip to Africa this June, to the amazing country of Senegal. My wonderful friend Dr. Nicole Richards has opened her home in the town of Popenguine as a school to unite people with their roots, to study, experience real Africa, and honor her mother. The name of the school is Rose Pan African Education after her mother Rose. ( Rose was an amazing educator and unfortunately passed away. Rose Pan is to honor her legacy. As an historian who teaches African history, I jumped at the chance to get involved with this new enterprise. This June was the inaugural program, and as with all new adventures there were learning curves that were at times extremely challenging. Nicole and her husband Mustapha bared the brunt of these growing pains but persevered. One of my parts in Rose Pan African Education besides advising and creating curriculum is to get students from colleges to study in Senegal for 10 days next summer. I am an adjunct at Rockland and Hudson Community Colleges and when I approached them about sending students to study abroad, they were very interested. However, being just an adjunct presents its own set of problems as one is just a part-time worker. Education has been hit hard by this adoration of venture capitalism and the gig economy designed to make the rich richer and keep everyone else dreaming of being a rich entrepreneur while hustling so hard and shouldering most of the expenses they don’t realize they have been duped. I was once a full-time instructor, but my school fell victim to poor (read greedy) management and the high cost of tuition. I would have to go to Senegal first and see what kind of program could be created. Fortunately, at each college I have great coordinators whom I work under and believe in me. We are on the same page when it comes to education. To further my luck in March of 2022 the United States Department of Education put out an edict that American students need to be more conscious of life abroad. With the winds of good fortune in my favor I made the journey to Senegal.

The flight from Newark, NJ to Senegal took 17 hours due to a stop-over in Brussels, Belgium. This was my first excursion away from the Americas and the long flights were taken in stride. As I flew over Europe and North Africa, I ticked off in my mind how I must visit these places someday as well. When the plane touched down in Blaise Diange International Airport the range of emotions flooded my body. To touch the ground of the birthplace of humanity, to meet new people, to experience what I have read and been studying about for so long was exciting. I also have been lucky to know many people born and raised in Africa, and what they have demonstrated to me by their actions had me relaxed. My first experience was a massive pilgrimage of Christians to the area to humble themselves before the Black Madonna statue in the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Deliverance. Senegal is an example of the beauty of Africa because so often there is a melding, ebbing and flowing of ideas that come together. This has been happening for thousands of years (spread of agriculture, spread of iron making, Bantu migrations, etc…). Senegal is a majority Muslim society, yet the Christians and Muslims live, work, and love side by side peacefully. This way of life is most often ignored while negative behavior is always highlighted while ignoring the causes of such behavior. The Tran-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, Colonialism, the Cold War, and the extraction of wealth by world powers have upset the natural ebb and flow of the peoples of Africa. And yes, Africa has had its own wars and slavery, however, pre-slave trade war was never as destructive as modern war and slavey did not strip people of their identity as human. When dealing with humas there will be problems, but back to the story. The roads and traffic of Senegal is let’s say politely from an American point of view a fucking free for all. Cars, scooters, motorcycles, pedestrians, goats and cows all compete for room on smaller roads, while the larger highways don’t have the animals, but the intense pace at which everyone drives needs to be experienced. It has the feel of a road rally. The small side roads are dirt and there are no road signs or house numbers (that I could see). I have spent time in Haiti, and I instantly was struck by the similarities. I recognized the French colonial influences and the frenetic energy of the roads. Many of the buildings of concrete block adorned with colorful images to advertise their purpose and the local buses packed with people and adorned to show local influences. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba the founder of the Mouride Brotherhood who led a pacifist struggle against the French, his face is seen often on many of the private taxis. But animist items like goat tails can be on the same taxi. This is another example of the melding of beliefs that is very present in Africa.

The majority of the languages spoken in Senegal is Wolof and French (there are other languages spoken such Serer, Pulaar, and Diola) and I must admit that not being able to communicate was at first very intimidating. It kept me close to Nicole or in the air B&B I was staying in. A month before I purchased a good book on speaking Wolof. The words are spelled phonetically which is a great thing for someone bad at learning new languages (like me). This book Talking Wolof by Serigne Mara Diakhate gave me a good head start. Spending time with me was Amina, Nicole’s nanny for her son Freddie (they are both in the picture at the start of the story) and Bomba a friend of Mustapha and hired as an interpreter and guide for the first attendees at Rose Pan. In the first few days they tutored me in Wolof, they were very patient as I wrote down, phonetically of course, their lessons. Nicole was able to spend time with me and took me to Dakkar but often had to tend to the first attendees. I also spent time with Amina and Freddie. Freddie being young his brain is like sponge, and he already speaks English, French, and Wolof. Amina only speaks French and Wolof, and we used Google translate, a slow but often effective way of communicating. Amina, Freddie, and I went to the beach and to the local store, and the more I moved around Senegal and had interactions with people the more relaxed I became. The less nervous I was about attempting to speak Wolof. One morning Freddie and I went to the local store, and I used my limited Wolof to buy water and a vanilla drink called Jet for Freddie. The store owner was patient and understood me, I was able to change my money into West African Francs the day before. This interaction boosted my confidence, and I observed that most people were happy that I was attempting to speak their language. The day before I was with a driver Abu who spoke English, he had lived in Sweden and spoke several languages. He had been injured in an accident many years earlier and could not walk. He drove his old maroon Kia four-wheel drive slow and often yelled at the other drivers that zoomed around us. He took me into the countryside where I saw Fulani with their cattle. It was towards the end of the dry season and the cattle suffer during this time. Two large white cows stood on a pile of refuse picking through it looking for something to eat. Abu was also picking up some people and that is when I met a Serer woman named Fatu who spoke English. Fatu lived in France but came back to Senegal to visit her family. Abu was taking her from one family member to another. American money isn’t desired as Euros are preferred, but Fatu exchanged fifty dollars with me. After dropping off Fatu, Abu took me to the countryside where I saw some amazing baobab trees up close. You see them all over the country. Their shapes are unmistakable, they produce large, tasty fruit and are revered throughout the continent. Now standing at the base of a large one I understood their charm. Certain trees have a magnificence of their own and standing next to a huge branching baobab you know why they are considered magical and often talked about in stories and legend. The sun began to set an Abu’s headlights didn’t work due to someone backing up into him earlier in the year. We had to get back to Popenguine before dark. We raced the setting sun and made it as dusk turned to dark. He dropped me off on the road above my air B&B and I walked down two moonlit alleys to the gate of my place. I did that walk in the evening several times and having good night vision I moved comfortably in the dark past the rocks, piles of sand and stone and garbage. Many houses where I stayed were in different stages of construction or disrepair. West African Francs can be hard to come by and the worldwide inflation was pushing hard on the locals. Often, I would encounter some passing individuals and greet them with a passing “sa va”.

This is the end of part one come back to read more about Rose Pan African Education and my adventures in Senegal!!


Rose Pan African Education is a new nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the educational foundation and outcomes for students of color and their allies on a global scale. Rose Pan will provide a creative, academic, and service-learning programs by connect students to African communities. Rose Pan also will open a school to service local children.

To learn more please go to or

Please donate whatever you can!!

Africa (as usual) is being ignored – The following article is from the Guardian

Why are Africa’s coronavirus successes being overlooked?

Afua Hirsch

Afua Hirsch

Examples of innovation aren’t getting the fanfare they would do if they emerged from Europe or the US

Remember, early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the speculation as to how apocalyptic it would be if this disease hit the African continent? I do. There was deep anxiety about what it would mean for countries with lower income populations, dominant but harder-to-regulate informal economies and far fewer healthcare facilities than the UK or Italy.

There have been coronavirus mistakes and misjudgments, and deaths, and each one is a tragedy. And no one knows the course the pandemic may take next – the continent, like the rest of the world, isn’t out of the woods yet. But what has also happened is that many African nations, realising early on that large-scale, expensive testing and hospitalisation was not an option for the populations, had no choice but to take a more creative approach.

Take the two African countries I have called home – Senegal and Ghana. Senegal is developing a Covid-19 testing kit that would cost $1 per patient, which it is hoped will, in less than 10 minutes, detect both current or previous infection via antigens in saliva, or antibodies. It’s hard to know exactly how this compares with the price of Britain’s tests, but many of them use polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to detect the virus, and cost hundreds of dollars. And I can testify that a leaflet that came through my door in London this week offered me a private testing kit for £250.enegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.

As a result, this nation of 16 million people has had only 30 deaths. Each death has been acknowledged individually by the government, and condolences paid to the family. You can afford to see each death as a person when the numbers are at this level. At every single one of those stages, the UK did the opposite, and is now facing a death toll of more than 35,000. Advertisement

Ghana, with a population of 30 million, has a similar death toll to Senegal, partly because of an extensive system of contact tracing, utilising a large number of community health workers and volunteers, and other innovative techniques such as “pool testing”, in which multiple blood samples are tested and then followed up as individual tests only if a positive result is found. The advantages in this approach are now being studied by the World Health Organization.

Across the African continent, the lack of access to expensive pharmaceutical products, not to mention a well-founded historic lack of trust, has fuelled interest in whether traditional herbal remedies have anything to offer. One plant in particular – Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood, which belongs to the daisy family – is drawing particular attention after the president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, claimed it was a “cure” for Covid-19.

That may sound Trumpian, and the WHO has cautioned that further trials are needed before it can be advocated as a treatment for the disease. But I contacted the respected Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Germany, which is currently conducting clinical trials on a different breed of the same plant, in this case grown in Kentucky.

This specially grown, more potent variety of sweet wormwood is being tested on cells to determine its effectiveness in fighting coronavirus infections and the results so far, the institute’s director, Prof Peter Seeberger, told me, are “very interesting”. Human clinical trials are likely to follow.

More than 20 African countries have already ordered the Madagascan version, a vote of confidence for Rajoelina, who has taken to showing up at meetings and TV appearances with a bottle of a brown herbal drink made from the plant, touting its benefits.

The reason you probably haven’t heard about this, he says, is because of patronising attitudes towards African innovation. “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt?” he asked on French TV. “I don’t think so.”

The scientists will have to say whether his “cure” actually works (among those calling for better evidence of its safety and effectiveness is Madagascar’s own National Academy of Medicine). But on Eurocentric attitudes, he has a point. The African continent has a stellar history of innovating its way out of problems – just look at how mobile money and fintech has turned it into one of the most digitally savvy regions in the world. Advertisement

It has been well documented how a patronising attitude towards east Asia is what allowed European countries to be caught by such surprise at the spread of this disease. Now a similar mindset seems set to ensure we don’t learn the lessons Africa has to offer in overcoming it.

• Afua Hirsch is a Guardian columnist