International Women’s Day 2021: 15 Pioneering Female Role Models in Nigeria


It is International Women’s Day 2021, and visibly the most suitable time to salute the courage and tenacity of women in Nigeria. After an objective and thorough research by the VERIFIED NEWS NGR team, it presents Nigerian females who are pioneering role models in various endeavours.

 Aderonke Kale:

At a time when a career in the military was not fashionable for anyone let alone the womenfolk, Aderonke, a medical doctor, returned after specialising in Psychiatry to join the Nigerian Army in 1972. She rose steadily to become a colonel in 1990 and a Major General in 1994, emerging the first Nigerian woman to become a General in the army.

 Ngozi Okonjo Iweala:

A Harvard trained economist, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has clinched a lot of firsts making her one of the pioneering female role models in Nigeria. After serving as a federal minister twice, she proceeded to become the first Nigerian managing director of the World Bank. A few weeks ago, she was elected as the Director General of the World Trade Organization, becoming the first African to hold such a position. Iweala, whose parents are university professors, also recorded pioneering feats by being on the board of numerous global tech brands such as Twitter.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Blessed with outstanding literary ingenuity, Adichie has paved the pathway for Nigerian women in Literature. As the author of some of the most successful novels in recent times, her name is today synonymous with literary excellence, with several global awards and honours in her kitty.

Bilikisu Yusuf:

Bilikisu is a trail-blazer in the area of journalism, being the first woman to become an editor of a national newspaper. After her return from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she became the first female editor at the Sunday Triumph, Kano, from 1983–1987. She also held the title of editor at the New Nigerian, Kaduna, in 1987 and Citizen Magazine, Kaduna, in 1990.  Bilikisu was known for her column “Civil Society Watch”.  

Sarah Jibril:

She made her mark with her pioneering role in the area of politics. She is the first woman to have aspired to become the President of Nigeria and made the attempt a record four times. After losing out in the 2011 presidential elections primaries to eventual president, Goodluck Jonathan, notably getting only a single vote, she was appointed as the Special Adviser on Ethics and Values to the President.

Agbani Darego:

She came to national consciousness when she became the first Nigerian to emerge as Miss World in 2001. Her feat opened the door for numerous other ladies of Nigerian descent to aspire to become even greater on the world stage of pageantry.  Agbani, by virtue of this feat has inked numerous endorsements for brands.

Margaret Ekpo:

She played a pioneering role in women’s rights advocacy in Nigeria. A social mobilizer, Ekpo was a pioneering female politician in the country’s First Republic and a leading member of a class of traditional Nigerian women activists, many of whom rallied women beyond notions of ethnic solidarity. She played major roles as a grassroots and nationalist politician in the Eastern Nigerian city of Aba, in the era of an hierarchical and male-dominated movement towards independence.

Grace Alele-Williams:

A professor of Mathematics, Grace made history when she became the first female Vice Chancellor of a university in Nigeria. As the VC of the University of Benin, Williams was distinguished for her strong will and courage in the face of intimidation, a fact that earned her accolades in the Presidency, who asked those against her reign to leave the university system.

Funmilayo Ransome Kuti:

She was a Nigerian educator, political campaigner and women’s rights activist.Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, Ransome-Kuti was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School. As a young adult, she worked as a teacher, organising some of the first preschool classes in the country and arranging literacy classes for lower-income women.Ransome-Kuti established the Abeokuta Women’s Union and fought for women’s rights, demanding better representation of women in local governing bodies and an end to unfair taxes on market women. Her accomplishments earned her the title, “Lioness of Lisabi” in the Nigerian media.

Amina J Mohammed:

Currently, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina is the first Nigerian woman to so be. Previously, she was the Nigerian Minister of Environment from 2015 to 2016 and was a key player in the Post-2015 Development Agenda process. Amina Mohammed was born in Liverpool, UK, in 1961 to a Nigerian veterinarian-officer and a British nurse. She is the eldest of five daughters. Mohammed attended a primary school in Kaduna and Maiduguri, and Buchan School in Isle of Man. In 1991, she founded Afri-Projects Consortium, and from 1991 to 2001 she was its Executive Director.

From 2002 until 2005, Mohammed coordinated the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Projects.

Virgy Etiaba:

She made history when she became the first female Governor in Nigeria. Although, she got to the position after the substantive Governor was impeached, the decision was subsequently upturned, by the judicial ruling of the Supreme Court.

Ameyo Stella Adedevoh:

A medical doctor in Lagos, Ameyo Adedevoh paid the supreme price in her attempt to keep her country women and men away from the dreaded Ebola virus, through an infection from Nigeria’s index case, a Liberian man named Sawyer. Today, her name is synonymous with service, selflessness and courage.

Chinyere Onyenaucheya-Kalu:

She is the first Nigeria woman to fly a commercial aircraft. She served as the Rector and Chief Instructor of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology between October 2011 and February 2014.

Tolulope Arotile:

Born in 1995, Tolulope played a pioneering role by becoming the first Nigerian woman to pilot a combat helicopter. She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 to 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 to 2011 before she later gained admission into Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on 22 September 2012. Her life was however cut short in a tragic accident in 2020.

Genevieve Nnaji:

She rose steadily in the movie industry, to become the most recognizable face in Nollywood. Taking her career a notch higher, she became a film director and pioneered a film project, LionHeart, which got Nollywood the attention of international stakeholders in film. For the average Nigerian woman, Genevieve comes to mind when film is mentioned.