More and more, women are paving the way for young girls to become leaders in their own communities. We hear every day of the accomplishments of African women—from the everyday front-line work of women against the pandemic to the elevation of others to positions of influence and responsibility. At this momentous time in the history of the global trading system, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister, former managing director of the World Bank Group, and nonresident distinguished fellow with the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative, became the first woman ever and first African to head the World Trade Organization. We also note the elevation of Monique Nsanzabaganwa, former deputy governor of the Rwandan Central Bank, as the Africa Union’s first female deputy chairperson, with responsibility to carry out much-needed reforms to sustain Africa’s continued march toward greater solidarity and integration.

Thus, in the 2021 edition of our flagship report Foresight Africa, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has chosen to highlight the transformative leadership of women—in management roles, on the front lines of the pandemic, and in everyday life—by opening each chapter with a salient quote from an eminent woman.

Now, to celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative asked leading women to reflect on the challenges facing young women and to share their thoughts on how we can more effectively encourage and empower young women and girls to become leaders themselves. Each woman was approached for this purpose because they took action against all odds, rising to great heights in their communities, on the continent, and on the global stage. Below are the responses from these inspiring women.

Rt. Hon. Winnie Kiiza
Former Leader of Opposition, Parliament of Uganda

Even though women are vaulting to leadership spaces, our communities remain obstinately resistant to women in leadership roles. They (the patriarchy) too often perceive women as too delicate to lead. This trend, among many other deeply-seated and unconscious gender biases, force potential women leaders to withdraw into their shells. Yet, women possess inherently strong attributes that can help lead more effectively.

Read the full article about women leaders by Aloysius Uche Ordu at Brookings.