Zimbabwe: UK - Zimbabwe-Born Vee Kativhu Makes List of 100 Most Influential Women in the World

Varadizo (Vee) Kativhu, a Young Leader for the SDGs.
22 November 2023

More than a dozen women from Africa, including Zimbabwe-born Vee Kativhu, have made the BBC's annual list of one hundred most influential and inspiring women around the world for 2023.

Explaining how the women were chosen, the UK's public broadcaster said; "We were looking for candidates who had made headlines or influenced important stories over the past 12 months, as well as those who have inspiring stories to tell, or have achieved something significant or influenced their societies in ways that wouldn't necessarily make the news."

The Corporation added; "A pool of names was also assessed against this year's theme - climate change and its disproportionate impact on women and girls around the world, from which a group of 28 Climate Pioneers and other environmental leaders were selected.

"We represented voices from across the political spectrum and from all areas of society, explored names around topics that split opinion, and nominated women who have created their own change.

"The list was also measured for regional representation and due impartiality before the final names were chosen. All women have given their consent to be on the list."

Below are the 13 Africans on the list:

Vee Kativhu, Zimbabwe/UK

Content creator and YouTuber

From juggling her studies with a part-time job at McDonald's to gaining degrees from Oxford and Harvard universities, Vee (Varaidzo) Kativhu's academic journey has become an inspiration to thousands across the world.

While at university, she set up a YouTube channel to share her experiences as a student from a lower socio-economic background, and provided study tips and resources to others like her.

Since then, Kativhu has launched Empowered by Vee, a platform through which she seeks to make higher education more accessible for unsupported or under-represented students around the world.

She has written a practical self-help book for young people and is currently pursuing a PhD in Education Leadership.

Neema Namadamu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Disability rights campaigner

The network Hero Women Rising, or Mama Shuja, aims to improve living conditions for women and teenage girls in the DR Congo.

Disability rights activist Neema Namadamu founded the grassroots organisation, which uses education and technology to amplify women's voices and teach them to advocate for their rights.

Born in a remote area of eastern DR Congo, Namadamu contracted polio at the age of two. She was the first woman with a disability from her ethnic group to graduate from university.

She became a member of parliament and has been an adviser to the country's minister of gender and family.

Esi Buobasa, Ghana


A native of Fuveme, a Ghanaian village washed away by the sea, Esi Buobasa has experienced first-hand the impact of climate change.

With her husband and five children, she was forced to migrate as sea levels rose, making her land uninhabitable.

A leading fishmonger in her village, Buobasa and her colleagues set up an association aimed at helping fisherwomen in the region, as their source of income is threatened by coastal erosion.

The alliance, which now has about 100 members, meets weekly to discuss issues affecting women in the business and makes monetary contributions to support families in need.

We despair every time the tidal waves come. Death comes for us and the next generation.

Wanjira Mathai, Kenya

Enviromental adviser

An inspiring leader for an entire continent, Wanjira Mathai has more than 20 years of experience advocating for social and environmental change.

She led the Green Belt Movement, an indigenous grassroots organisation in Kenya that empowered women through the planting of trees, established by Wanjira's mother and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai.

Mathai is now the managing director for Africa and Global Partnerships at the World Resources Institute, and the chair of the Wangari Maathai Foundation.

She currently serves as Africa adviser to the Bezos Earth Fund, as well as to the Clean Cooking Alliance and the European Climate Foundation.

Action is "local". We need to support local initiatives like tree-based entrepreneurs and community-led work around restoration, renewable energy and the circular economy. Bottom-up efforts like these give me hope as they show us what is possible.

Susan Chomba, Kenya


Now a director at the World Resources Institute (WRI), Susan Chomba says her experience of childhood poverty in Kirinyaga county in central Kenya motivates her to help improve the lives of others.

She primarily concerns herself with protecting forests, restoring landscapes and transforming Africa's food systems.

From the tropical forests of the Congo Basin to the dry West African Sahel, as well as eastern Africa, Chomba spends time working with smallholder farmers, particularly women and young people, to help them make the most of their land.

She shares her expertise with governments and researchers to build more resilient communities in the face of intensifying climate change.

I'm more affected by the inaction of world leaders, especially from the major emitters, who also have the economic power to change course but are held back by money, power and politics. To manage those feelings, I bury myself in actions on the ground, working with women and youth across Africa on nature protection and restoration, transforming our food systems and changing policies.

Ulanda Mtamba, Malawi

Campaigner against child marriage

Ulanda Mtamba grew up in a community in Lilongwe, Malawi, which gave very little support towards women's education, with many girls pressured into dropping out of school to marry before the age of 18.

Mtamba challenged the community's status quo and not only graduated from university but also obtained a master's degree.

She advocates for enforcing existing laws that protect girls from early marriage, as well as for increased investment to address health risks associated with early pregnancy.

She currently works as Malawi's country director for AGE Africa, an organisation that seeks equal access to secondary school for all girls on the continent.

Yasmina Benslimane, Morocco

Founder of Politics4Her

Dedicated to advancing gender equality, Yasmina Benslimane founded Politics4Her, which promotes the participation of young women and girls in political and decision-making processes.

When a devastating earthquake struck her home country of Morocco in September, Benslimane and her organisation called for a gender-sensitive relief response.

She published a manifesto identifying challenges specific to women and girls that would be exacerbated by the disaster, such as period poverty and forced marriages.

As a mentor, adviser and board member for several non-profit organisations, she helps young women develop their leadership skills. Her work has earned her a UN Women peacebuilder award.

Paulina Chiziane, Mozambique


With her 1990s debut, Ballad of Love in the Wind, Paulina Chiziane became the first woman to publish a novel in Mozambique.

Growing up on the outskirts of Mozambique's capital, Maputo, Chiziane learnt Portuguese at a Catholic school. She studied languages at Eduardo Mondlane University, but did not graduate.

Her work has been translated into various languages, including English, German and Spanish. With the book The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy, she won the local José Craveirinha Award.

More recently she won the Camões Prize, considered the most prestigious writing award in Portuguese.

Jennifer Uchendu, Nigeria

Mental health advocate

The ambition of the youth-led organisation SustyVibes, founded by Jennifer Uchendu, is to make sustainability actionable, relatable and cool.

Uchendu's recent work has focused on exploring the impacts of the climate crisis on the mental health of Africans, especially young people.

In 2022, she set up The Eco-Anxiety Africa project (TEAP) to focus on validating and safeguarding climate emotions in Africans through research, advocacy and climate-aware psychotherapy.

Her goal is to work with people and organizations interested in shifting mindsets and doing the hard and often uncomfortable work of learning about climate emotions.

I experience a range of emotions when it comes to the climate crisis. I am slowly making peace with the fact that I will never be able to do enough but that I can, instead, do my best. Showing up in solidarity with others to act, rest and just be, helps me safeguard my climate-induced feelings.

Shamsa Araweelo, Somalia/UK

FGM campaigner

Driven by her determination to end female genital mutilation (FGM), Shamsa Araweelo educates and raises awareness through her powerful and direct online videos.

Araweelo, who was born in Somalia but currently lives in the UK, was subjected at the age of six to female genital cutting, a procedure in which a woman's genitals are partially or totally removed for non-medical reasons.

With more than 70 million views on TikTok, she wants to ensure that no-one remains uninformed.

She now assists British citizens trapped abroad who face so-called honour-based violence. She also provides advice on FGM to London's Metropolitan Police and has launched her own charity, Garden of Peace.

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda


As an award-winning Ugandan vet and conservationist, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka works to save the country's endangered mountain gorillas, whose habitat is being eroded by climate change.

She is founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health, an NGO that promotes biodiversity conservation by enabling people, gorillas and other wildlife to co-exist, while improving their health and habitat.

After three decades, she has helped increase the number of mountain gorillas from 300 to about 500, which was enough to downgrade them from critically endangered to endangered.

Kalema-Zikusoka was named a Champion of the Earth in 2021 by the United Nations Environment Programme.

What gives me hope in the climate crisis is the increasing acknowledgement that it needs to be addressed urgently. There are innovative methods to mitigate and adapt to this crisis.

Najla Mohamed-Lamin, Western Sahara

Women's rights and climate activist

Founder of the Almasar Library Centre, Najla Mohamed-Lamin wants to educate women and children on health and the environment in Saharawi refugee camps in south-west Algeria.

Her family are originally from Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, annexed by Morocco in 1975 and the subject of a long-running territorial dispute. They were forced into exile after fleeing violence.

Born and raised in the camps, Mohamed-Lamin learnt English as a teenager, translated for foreign delegations and was able to study abroad after she crowdfunded her tuition fees.

After graduating in sustainable development and women's studies, she returned to the camps to help more than 200,000 Saharawi refugees deal with water and food insecurity made worse by climate change.

We must confront the growing impact of climate change in a desert region, which sees our homes regularly destroyed by floods and sandstorms, and our people suffer under extreme temperatures. All this, when our people have contributed virtually nothing to the climate crisis.

Zandile Ndhlovu, South Africa

Freediving instructor

As South Africa's first black female freediving instructor, Zandile Ndhlovu wants to make access to the ocean more diverse.

She founded The Black Mermaid Foundation, which exposes young people and local communities to the ocean, in the hope of helping new groups to use these spaces recreationally, professionally and in sport.

Ndhlovu is an ocean explorer, storyteller and film-maker. She uses these skills to help shape a new generation of Ocean Guardians - people who learn about ocean pollution and rising sea levels and become involved in the protection of their environment.

Thinking about the number of young voices, rising up to create change in society gives me hope when considering the climate crisis.

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