By Kieran Guilbert
DAKAR, April 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Celebrating successful African women in fields ranging from politics and business to agriculture and the arts could inspire girls across the continent to strive towards closing the gender gap, winners of the New African Woman Awards said on Thursday.
Twelve women from Mali, Morocco and Zimbabwe among other countries, were honoured at the ceremony hosted by the New African Woman (NAW) magazine late on Wednesday in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
The Woman of the Year Award went to Fatoumata Tambajang, Gambia's new vice president and the architect of an opposition coalition that helped President Adama Barrow defeat longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh in the December presidential election.
"This important platform brings together inspirational women to find solutions to gender equality issues that hinder Africa's development," said Leila Ben Hassen, general manager at IC Publications, which publishes the pan-African NAW magazine.
"Although we are still a long way from closing the gender gap globally, Africa is making some gradual progress," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the second edition of the awards.
The awards were followed by panel discussions on subjects including female leadership in politics and business, supporting women in science and technology and investing in women's health.
Several panellists said that women across Africa face many obstacles to achieving their full potential, ranging from access to capital, a lack of training, and widespread discrimination.
Winner of the health, science and innovation award, Helena Ndume, a Namibian ophthalmologist who has performed sight-restoring surgeries upon tens of thousands of people for free, said she hoped to inspire young girls to follow her lead.
"It is so humbling to be here among amazing African women from so many different fields," she said. "I hope our successes will encourage many girls and young women to aspire to work in vital sectors like science, health, engineering and technology."
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)