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Palesa Mokubung, Isis Nyong'o & Ebele Okobi

Meet The IKONS: Palesa, Ebele & Isis

Three women changing the way we view the world

BY YAZA Ghana Team

Aug 12, 2021, 12:52 PM

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Palesa Mokubung, Isis Nyong'o & Ebele Okobi
Throughout the month and in honour of International Women's Day we will be sharing 100 stories from 100 African women as part of IKON 100. Today, we speak to Ebele Okobi, Palesa Mokubung and Isis Nyong'o

These women are from different countries, backgrounds and professions but what binds YAZA, them, and you together is the fact that we all fundamentally believe that when women support women great things happen. They say the future is female, we say the future is now. 

Ebele Okobi

Earlier this week, I was texting with my lovely and amazing daughter, Isabella, who is in her first year at Harvard Law. All of you African mamas understand why that was a MANDATORY clause and not at all a non sequitur.
We were texting about Malcolm and Marie, a movie starring two of our faves, but which was (ALAS) an aggressively shouty 106 minutes of the most dysfunctional relationship ever, launched by the most suspect serving of mac and cheese in cinematic history.
Ebele Okobi: Nigeria
She texted that afterwards, she needed to watch Queen and Slim as a palate cleanser. How we laughed that the antidote was the movie where the beautiful Black love story ends in a hail of bullets! Can we, sometimes abeg, not have tragedy with our love? Can we have stories where we are not “rising up” or Symbols Of Struggle?” Isabella texted  “I do not want to overcome!”
Struggle, and resilience, and courage, and yes, BlackGirlMagic are absolutely part of our stories, of my story, as African women. We would not be able to survive the world as it is without those things. We carry this world on our backs, and the hostility to our humanity is so foundational to the systems of power under which we live.
But when I think about what being an African woman means to me, in this the second year of the panorama, I think of JOY. I think of community, solidarity, LOVE.
It is clearer than ever how broken our current systems are. It is also clear how connected the rot is to the patriarchy, to racial inequality, to colonization, to the greed and violence of untrammeled capitalism that values things and money over human beings.
"For me, being an African woman in 2021 is about leaning into the power of our joy."
Righteous anger and struggle against that reality are so necessary-much good has come from the cleansing fire of focused rage. But! Rage alone is not enough. Alone, it narrows our focus to what must end, what must be destroyed. It centers oppressors in our stories and in our lives.
It is impossible to imagine something radically different without joy. Joy is expansive; it creates and brings beauty from ashes. It is impossible to create a world that truly cares for the least of us without love. This past year, I have been given my WHOLE LYFE by the African women across the diaspora who have radically reimagined what is possible, who have said YES when the world said no, who have lifted each other up, have shone the light on each other, have inspired us. For me, being an African woman in 2021 is about leaning into the power of our joy.

Ebele Okobi is Director of Public Policy, Africa, the Middle East & Turkey at Facebook

Isis Nyong'o

The 2021 black African woman is faced with opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Opportunities to grow her career or business, her networks and knowledge to help her tap into her deepest potential. She is boldly rising, she knows what she wants, and understands the value she brings to the table. She has chosen to move out of her comfort zone and challenge the status quo. The 2021 black African woman is ready for success.
Isis Nyong'o: Kenya
There are, however, challenges that stand in her way.  A wide range of structural biases within corporate environments and investors limit what’s possible for her - but the good news is that policy changes and other structural changes are being addressed by progressive institutions. But given how ambitious she is, she is not waiting around for institutional changes to happen. She’s discovered that building community with other women is a powerful avenue to get ahead and gain access to new opportunities. Women are connecting within women-only circles at a breathtaking rate rewriting the rules of networking. 
"The African woman is boldly rising, she knows what she wants, and understands the value she brings to the table."
There’s been global talk for more than a decade about the “she-economy” where women drive the economy as consumers but what the black African woman is poised to do is to take this a step further to have a greater share of the economic pie as corporate leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and other types of decision-makers. I’m betting on her and hope you are, too!

Isis Nyong's is a tech leader, founder, advisor, board member, and gender equality champion

Palesa Mokubung

What does it mean to be an African woman in 2021?

My name is Palesa Mokubung I’m a fashion designer based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Being an African woman in 2021 makes me feel empowered and capable of achieving all dreams because the world is finally starting to acknowledge, appreciate and believe in our magic. African women have undeniable strength, authenticity and magic which is unique and unlike the rest of the world.
Palesa Mokubung: South Africa
This year I hope to improve on all levels when it comes to my business, I have to get better at everything I’m already good at in order to stay above water and ultimately thrive in this new climate we find ourselves in. I finally have a clear vision for my professional and personal life and this vision is what drives me to be the type of leader that I am, the wife, the mother, the woman, and the designer that I am. I don’t have a choice but to live my life with conviction and most of all to keep challenging myself and those around me because victory is sweeter when its shared, besides I couldn’t possibly do this on my own I have a very strong support system both at work and at home. I have people who believe in the vision of the Mantsho Empire.

I hope for the next generation of women to feel safer in the spaces they find themselves in I hope for them to know and believe that they can have it all and that there is more to life than the issues and struggles we face. They need to understand that everything that is of value to them is going to require them to put in the work and approach life from all angles spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. I wish for women of the next generation to check in on themselves and each other. Balance is what I struggle with the most in my life and I have to keep trying new ways to evenly extend myself so I can have time for the people I love, myself included. 
"African women have undeniable strength, authenticity and magic which is unique and unlike the rest of the world."
Politics don’t interest me as such however I’m concerned about the levels of corruption in our government so many great African countries have fallen from grace because of it. People lack basic needs in this rich and beautiful country of ours,  it’s disheartening and painful to watch. Gender-based violence is at a nightmare level, all I know is something needs to change. With regards to unemployment, I wish inspiration could take the place of aspiration.

At the end of the day I’m most grateful for my family, my daughter I waited for her for so long and she showed up at the right time she’s almost two years old now and she’s my joy. I’m grateful for every little thing in my life. I live in a perpetual state of gratitude.

Palesa Mokubung is the founder and creative director of Mantsho