Transforming African Women's Lives Through Education

The author with Carnegie Corporation grant recipients

This article is part of a series exploring the transformation of African women's lives through education.


Far more African women are accessing higher education today than a decade ago, reflecting broad social and demographic changes across the continent. One of the many ways Carnegie Corporation of New York has worked to support African women is through university scholarship programs that operated from 2000 through 2010. Overseen by the Corporation’s Higher Education and Research in Africa (HERA) program area*, the scholarships benefited thousands of female students from diverse national, linguistic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. These exceptional women have gone on to enter a wide range of disciplines, from medicine and engineering to political science and pharmacology. 

Over the past year, I caught up with a number of recipients to find out what they are doing now and how their lives have changed as a result of the scholarship. My assignment began in Kampala, Uganda. In a single day spent traversing this vibrant and chaotic East African city, I met young women leading lives both ordinary and extraordinary. I visited a tuberculosis laboratory, a pediatric surgery ward in a public hospital, an office for a humanitarian NGO, and the iconic campus of Makerere University. All of the women I encountered were carving their own path and, to paraphrase Gandhi, “being the change they wish to see in the world.” 

My assignment later took me to northern Uganda, formerly a war zone, as well as regions in Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania. For the majority of women I spoke to during my travels, earning a scholarship from the Corporation was a life-changing event. I met them as their careers were unfolding along new trajectories that had been made possible by the critical financial support. This series captures the stories of these trailblazing women and underscores how higher education is a lifelong investment that pays dividends over time. 

Megan Lindow is an award-winning writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a former Africa Correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education and the author of Weaving Success: Voices of Change in African Higher Education, the story of a major 10-year initiative investing in African universities.

*Carnegie Corporation of New York no longer funds in this area