What you need to know:
- African women rallied behind Dr Ngozi using the hashtag #AnkaraArmy, signifying a support base of women identifying with her brand - the head tie made from Ankara, an African fabric.
- The 66-year-old economist inspired ubuntuism among women in Africa with her symbolic head tie.
A head tie is synonymous with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. They call it gele in Nigeria, her motherland.
She never misses to cover her hair with the African wax print-made gele.
The 66-year-old economist, did not just make history as the first African and first ever woman to become Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), a powerful global trade entity. She inspired ubuntuism among women in Africa with her symbolic head tie.
Ubuntuism is a philosophy championed by South African Anglican cleric and theologian Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which ascribes to values of supporting and celebrating one another.
An individual with Ubuntu is "affirming to others”, writes Mr Tutu in his book No Future Without Forgiveness. That person is also "open and available to others," he adds.
As the WTO General Council sat on February 15. to select a new chief to replace Mr Roberto Azevêdo who quit in August last year, African women rallied behind her using the hashtag #AnkaraArmy, signifying a support base of women identifying with her brand - the head tie made from Ankara, an African fabric.
Chief Executive Officer of a medical supplies enterprise, Lifebank, Ms Temie Giwa-Tubosun initiated the call for solidarity using the hashtag. She at the same time promised a N100,000 (Sh28,766) cash prize for the one who stood out.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it’s tomorrow! #NoiGoesToWTO! We are giving away N100k to the best dressed! Dress up like NOI (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) and send her a message of support as she goes to WTO! #AnkaraArmy stand up!" she tweeted on February14.
Dr Iweala is the founder of NOI Polls, an opinion research firm. She trained for her economics undergraduate degree at Harvard University, thereafter earning her doctorate in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to the new role in the 164-member State global trade body, she has held high ranking positions such as managing director of the World Bank overseeing operations in Africa, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia.
In her country, she wrote a new leadership chapter during the reign of Mr Olusegun Obasanjo when he appointed her Minister of Finance and Economy, the first female to hold the docket.
Ankara head tie
The #AnkaraArmy movement pulled in diplomats, corporate executives, thespians and health professionals among others. Each message of support was accompanied with a photo of the individual adorned in gele.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing who wore the Ankara head tie, threw in her support: “For girls in Nigeria and all over the world @NOIweala shows there are no limits and you can still be yourself.”
A nurse in the name Feji said: “I feel so excited to take part in this challenge, let's do it to honour an African woman...I'm doing it to honour an African woman who has inspired us all. Congratulations to mama Africa!”
Dr Iweala was grateful for the women's support.
She tweeted: “Thank you for all your messages of support. I’m delighted and honoured to see so many getting the “gele” right.”
She will officially occupy the office on March 1, for a renewable four-year term.