When the word military comes to your mind, many of us may automatically conjure up thoughts of bravery, valor, strength, and fortitude.However, deciding to or being called to serve is an awesome task that few experience.
Today we shall be looking through list of Black women who hold high leadership positions within the world’s military branches. Keep reading to learn about the Black women who are large and in charge in the military.
Commodore Jamila Malafa – Nigeria
Commodore Jamila Abubakar Sadiq Malafa had dreams of becoming a nurse before joining the Nigerian Navy. In 1988, after a friend convinced her to join the Navy to her trepidation as she knew nothing about the military. She initially ran away from her training camp and was brought back where her hair was cut and she slowly assimilated into military life. When her training was complete, she informed her superiors that she wanted to return to school and was allowed to do so due to her rank of officer.
Presently, Commodore Malafa holds the position of Deputy Director Civil Military relation (Law support) making her in charge of the law department at the headquarters. Commodore Malafa remarks “Honestly, I never saw the profession as a male-dominated institution or any of its activities as challenging that will make me have a change of mind because I love what I am doing; well, we are given the same training with the men, and we are expected to do whatever they can do. I was among the first set to be commissioned as Mid Ship Men.”
Commodore Malafa hopes to encourage other women to join the Nigerian military, however, so far hasn’t had much luck. She confers, “It is sad because now I am the only female officer from the core north and the most senior in the Navy profession. I had to extend my stay when I was told that a woman from Zamfara was interested and was coming over to Sokoto for the exams, and I was ready to allow her to write the exams alone… but she never turned up. I also went on air to call on our women to join, but that did not change that perception up till date. The military is a profession you can join and still have a life, a home and a family.”
Brigadier General Constance Edjeani-Afenu – Ghana
BG Constance Ama Edjeani-Afenu joined the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) in 1978 at the age of 18. After a rude awakening about the strenuous life of a soldier, she stayed the course and was regarded as the most resilient officer. Gearing towards a whopping 40 years in the military, BG Edjeani-Afenu was bestowed with the rank of Brigadier General. From 2013 – 2016, she functioned as Ghana’s deputy military advisor to its permanent mission in New York; being the first woman to do so. With her new rank, she will now take up a post at the Ministry of Defence in the capital, Accra.
BG Edjeani-Afenu hopes to inspire other women to join the service and climb the success ladder as she has.
Major Marguerite Downes – Canada
Major Downes’ military career commenced when she joined the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in 1955. In 1956 she moved to the Toronto Reserves and was awarded the rank of Lieutenant of the Highland Creek Cadet Corps. Later on, she became deputy commanding officer, head of evaluations, goal-setting, and discipline enforcement; she also advised officers about personal and professional development.
Major Downes was appointed aide-de-camp in 1980; she liaised with organizers on concerns of protocol and ceremony; she also worked a succession of five lieutenant-governors in Ontario. In 1988, Major Downes became the first African-Canadian woman affiliated with the Royal Canadian Military Institute. Major Downes worked part-time as a registered nurse servicing mostly the elderly and dejected. Major Downes died in 2009 from respiratory failure.
Brigadier General Ramatoulie DK Sanneh – The Gambia
Sanneh became the First woman in the Gambia to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Defense Staff Lt. General Masanneh Kinteh commented: “the promotion of Brigadier General Ramatoulie DK Sanneh would serve as a source of inspiration for the young women already serving in the armed forces, and for the young ones outside.” The biographical information for BG Sanneh isn’t available and her current status is unknown after the change of government.
Major General Jackie Sedibe – South Africa
Born Major General Refiloe Phelile Florence Jackie Sedibe in South Africa; she began her career at the age of eight, by distributing Africa National Congress leaflets. In 1961, she joined the military branch of the ANC – a guerilla organization. In 1964 when she reached her 17thbirthday, Major General Sedibe was assigned as a signals operator specializing in clandestine radio operations. In the latter part of 1964 she was sent to the Soviet Union for training at the Odessa Infantry Academy; being one of three women to be selected to join the program. Between 1976 to 1977, she assisted Zambian officials with processing new recruits from South Africa and Zambia. From 1976 to 1980 she served at the Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK) central operations headquarters. In 1984 was selected for ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
In 1990 Major General Sedibe joined the ANC headquarters as the communications head for the military branch. In 1994, she was a member of a select group of MK members to be integrated into the South African military. Subsequently, Sedibe served in the Office of the inspector general focusing on the interests of women in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Also in 1994, she participated in operations for the Transitional Executive Council and on a sub-council on defence in proceedings of the Joint Military Coordinating Council. In 1996, Sedibe was promoted to the rank of Major General and earned the title of chief director of corporate communications. In 1997, she was chosen as chief director of equal opportunities in the SANDF. Sedibe continues to serve in the SANDF.
Admiral Michelle Howard – U.S.
Admiral Howard is currently serving as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe while concurrently serving as U.S. Naval Forces Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples. She previously served as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations, making her the first African-American woman to do so.
During her illustrious career, Admiral Howard became the first African-American woman to command a U.S. ship – the USS Rushmore. She was the first Black woman to reach the rank of two, three, and four-star Admiral, and Rear Admiral (lower half). Admiral Howard was also the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank. Admiral Howard is due to retire in 2018.