AFRICA’S LEADING WOMEN SERIES: African women who’ve served/are serving their countries in the capacities of: President, Prime minister and/or Vice President.

Know them, appreciate them and remember them.


Initiated by Nyokabi Ng’ang’a, for The Involvement Newspaper.


By: Nyokabi Ng’ang’a (

Thumbnail photo created by Nyokabi Ng’ang’a

Maria das Neves: São Tomé and Príncipe’s 1st female Prime Minister.

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Maria das Neves was born in her country, São Tomé and Príncipe, in the year 1958.

An economist graduate from Cuba, she worked as a civil servant in her country’s Ministry of Finance and later at the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In the year 1999, she was appointed Minister of Economics, where she served her country till the year 2001 and later on, in the same year, as Minister of Finance where it’s believed her service lasted a year. In the year 2002, she then took the role of Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism.

Under President Fradique de Menezes’ rule, which took course in the year 2001, she was elected Prime Minister in the year 2002 with the mandate of heading the government. Following the economic and power struggles within the country, there was a military coup in the year 2003 and with the absence of the President who was not in the country, Ma’am Maria das Neves, alongside other governmental officials, were arrested on the claims that the government was corrupt. Due to this occurrence, as believed, she was hospitalized after suffering a mild heart attack, causing her to resign from her role as Prime Minister.

Her resignation came after Fradique de Menezes was reinstated as President, following an internationally- pushed agreement between him and the coup leaders.

However, as a result of President Fradique’s insistence, she took up the Prime Minister’s role, once more, serving her country till the year 2004, after which, she was dismissed by the former as Premier, on the claims of corruption linkages to her governance.

To learn more of this lady pace-setter, click here.

Maria do Carmo Silveira: São Tomé and Príncipe’s 2nd female Prime Minister.

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Maria do Carmo Silveira, was born in the year 1960, in her country São Tomé and Príncipe.

Educated at the University of Ukraine as an economist, she featured twice as the 3rd and 6th governor of São Tomé and Príncipe’s central bank. This, to mention, was in the years: 1999-2005 and 2011-2016.

In the year 2005, she was appointed Prime Minister of her country by President Fradique de Menezes. She served in this capacity; concurrently also as Minister of Finance and Planning, for close to an year, with her term halting in April the 21st in the year 2006, after a parliamentary election saw her party defeated by the opposition.

With no substantial information found on her life before Premiership, click here to have a look at her profile.

Isatou Njie-Saidy: The Gambia’s 1st female Vice President.

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Isatou Njie-Saidy was born in Kuntaya, North Bank, Gambia in the year 1952.

She served as her country’s first female Vice President from the year 1997 to the year 2017. This she did alongside her ministerial role in women affairs. It is believed that she is the world’s longest serving Vice President, having served her country for 10 solid years.

A holder of a Master of Science in economics from the University of Swansea, Wales, UK; her zones of expertise as featured in her areas of studies, to mention, in broad are: Industrial management, Economics and Teaching.

In the year 1983, she took up the role of Deputy Executive Secretary of the women’s bureau- the executive decision making body of the National Women’s Council of Gambia. She served in this capacity till the year 1989.

Later, in 1996, under President Yahya Jammeh’s rule, she was appointed Minister of Health, Social Welfare and Women’s affairs and worked in this capacity for a year, before being appointed Vice President, the first female for that matter, of the Gambia.  

It’s reported that in 2015, there were established constraints between her and President Jammeh, resulting to her resignation in 2017.

To learn more of this deeply revered woman of the Gambia, click here.

Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang: The Gambia’s 2nd female Vice President.

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Fatoumata Jallow was Gambia’s former Vice President who served under President Adama Barrow, for nearly a year.

Born in 1949 in Brikima, Gambia, she was educated in her country alongside Senegal and France. It’s reported that her early University education saw her get a BA in French from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis in France.

Prior to her selection as the Secretary of State (Minister) for Health and Social Welfare in 1994, she served as an adviser to President Dawda Jawara- Gambia’s first President who was later ousted.

Afterwards, she joined the United Nations where she worked as a gender expert in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It’s also featured that she worked as the chairwoman of the Gambia National Women’s council.

Fast-forward to 2016, courtesy of her political routings, she with notable others, formed the coalition 2016- an amalgamation of  opposing political parties- that steered the exit of Yahya Jammeh as Gambia’s president. To her credit, she was regarded as the mastermind behind this plan, and for the worth note, she sat as the coalition’s chairperson.

After Yahya Jammeh took to exile in Equatorial Guinea, Adama Barrow who was appointed presidential candidate of the coalition, was instated as President in the year 2017- following his win of the 2016 elections- and on his inauguration, he appointed Ma’am Fatoumata as his Vice-president. However, after being appointed, concerns were raised about her age as an impediment to taking office. Nonetheless, her appointment was confirmed by President Adama Barrow and she served her country in this position of the Vice-President till June 2018. Of other importance, she also served concurrently as the Minister of Women Affairs while overseeing the Vice President’s office.

To learn more of this New African Woman who scooped the 2017 New African Woman of the Year Award by the New African Magazine, click here.

Dr. Isatou Toray: The Gambia’s current and 3rd female Vice President.

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Isatou Touray was born in 1955, in her country, The Gambia. She grew up in Banjul, Gambia’s capital, and attended her primary, secondary and start-up tertiary schooling within her country. Later on, after graduating as a teacher of English and Home Economics from The Gambia College, in 1971, she became a teacher and then ventured into the field of community development, afterwards, with a special focus on women and development.

A PhD holder in Development Studies- with a special emphasis on Gender- from the University of Sussex, UK, Ma’am Isatou Toray’s field of studies are wide and heavily routed within her areas of passions. To mention, she holds a degree in Education and English from Usman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto, Nigeria and a Master’s Degree in Development Studies with specialization in women and development, from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, The Netherlands.  

Known widely in her country and substantially in Africa, for being a staunch feminist and a gender and human rights activist, she has featured in many organizations and boards; worth recognizing being: the Inter-African Committee (IAC) – a formed Pan-African Network of over twenty eight African countries aimed at Eliminating Harmful Traditional Practices– where she served as the network’s secretary general from the year 2009-2014. To this regard, she also cofounded The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) and introduced a Diploma in Gender and Development program and founded the Gender Unit of the Management Development Institute, of which all are situated and running in her country.

Just for the good mention, she is recognized and credited as both an international and national advocate for the end of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia, and largely, in Africa.

In the year 2016, infuriated with President Yahya Jammeh’s exceeding twenty years hard-fisted rule, she alongside others, contested for the Presidential seat. She did so as an independent candidate and notably, as the only woman in Gambia’s history. However, she stepped down to back Adama Barrow as President and to support the Coalition 2016. When Adama Barrow became President, she sat in his cabinet as the Trade Minister and later on, as the Health Minister. In 2019, following a major cabinet reshuffle, she was appointed the Vice President of the Gambia by President Adama, succeeding her predecessor, Ousainou Darboe.

To learn more of the life story of this deeply revered African- Gambian lady, click here.

Will your country be the next?                             

Kindly schedule to read the subsequent article of this series, next week.


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