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Local heroes: Unsung women of Africa

The BBC has been running a series about inspiring women across Africa, and followers of BBC Africa’s Facebook and Twitter pages have nominated their local heroines.

Here is a selection of 10 nominees:

Child marriage terminator

Brenda Iyoha nominated Inkosi Kachindamoto, who is a chief in the district of Dedza in Malawi. She annulled 330 child marriages last year, sending the children back to school.

“This is a bold step and a statement of intent in the fight to end child marriages,” said Ms Iyoha.

Sanitary pad campaigner

Chi Yvonne nominated Marie- Claire Nabila Kuja, saying the Cameroonian campaigner “is on an unquenchable quest to ignite change in the lives of women and youths in Africa and beyond”.

“Her KujaPads initiative has gone a long way to improve the menstrual hygiene of thousands of girls in Cameroon.”

According to Ms Kuja, more than 80% of female students in the North West region of Cameroon have limited access to sanitary pads.

Inspiring media boss

Larry Swatuk nominated Louise Vale, executive director of the Association of Independent Publishers in South Africa, because she is a “lifelong rescuer of NGOs and communities in crisis”.

As an English teacher in the 1970s and 1980s, Ms Vale campaigned against the apartheid regime. She later helped open up access to education for disadvantaged youths and adults through various governmental and non-governmental organisations, and last year was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to the board of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

Life-saving community nurse

Udk Kalimalwanyo nominated Charity Salima, a community nurse in Malawi, because she “has volunteered for years to help women in maternal health through her community clinic Achikondi in Area 23, Lilongwe.

“She is my unsung hero.”

Ms Salima founded her clinic in the impoverished district in 2008, offering affordable pre- and post-natal care, and has since delivered thousands of babies.

Anti-FGM activist

Imani Amrani nominated Chesang Domtila, because she “worked wonders at the End FGM Academy – she made it happen and was an inspiration to all”.

A Kenyan anti-FGM activist, Ms Domtila was born into a community that practises female genital mutilation but managed to escape.

“I have campaigned since I was 13 – I am now 26 – and I can say together with my team and other Kenyan activists, we have achieved a lot. I helped found an anti-FGM community-based organisation and currently work with the Guardian Global Media Campaign against FGM,” she told the BBC.

Mother for orphans

Brenda Iyoha nominated Mary Mangwiza for “tirelessly supporting orphans of HIV and Aids in Malawi”.

“With very few resources, she offers love and the chance of a meal and early education for children who would otherwise not get any,” she says.

Mother Mary’s Children Centre looks after more than 900 orphans and other vulnerable children, particularly in the districts of Zomba and Chikwawa.

River blindness fighter

International charity Sightsavers nominated one of their own volunteers in Cameroon, Evodia Njah, who delivers treatment for those at risk of river blindness.

A widow with five children, she takes a census of her village between June and August and the information is used to allocate treatments. She then begins the job of overcoming people’s suspicions, convincing them take medicine to stop itchiness and eye problems.

“I get up very early in the morning and distribute between 6am-12pm, then from 6-8pm – this way you can make sure people are at home. I distribute every day for two weeks, to 20 households in my village. If people are not in, I go to other households, then I keep going back until I find them.”

Fairtrade gold miner

Sarah Carpin nominated Josephine Agutu, a gold miner from Uganda, for “empowering women through Fairtrade gold” – an ethical jewellery certification system to get fairer wages for alluvial miners.

Ms Agutu began working in mines at the age of 12 and now, as part of the Tiira Small-Scale Miners Association, she participates in a pilot Fairtrade project to prevent child labour and warn women about the dangers of using mercury to extract gold.

Police inspector turned UN peacekeeper

US-based charity Etisah Foundation nominated Josephine Ngale, a retired police inspector from Limbe in Cameroon, who in 2007 set up the Save The Children Alliance Orphanage in the same area, which currently supports around 50 children.

Ms Ngale is also a UN peacekeeper who focuses on gender-based violence. Previously stationed in Sudan’s Darfur region, she is currently based in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan.

Commenting on her nomination, she told the BBC: “Thank you for nominating me, it makes me proud to be a strong African woman.”

Peace-loving marathon runner

Josiah Mugo Mosby nominated Tegla Loroupe because she “won marathons for Kenya, now she runs for peace in her Pokot community”, where cattle rustling and revenge killings are common.

A three-time world half-marathon champion and two-time world marathon champion, Ms Loroupe established the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in 2003 to bring peace and unification through sports.—BBC

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