Obiageli Ezekwesili

Nigeria

Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili is a daring advocate who’s led pioneering initiatives that challenge extremism, corruption and gender-based violence. Born and raised in Nigeria, Oby is an economic expert, who pursued a distinguished career within private sector and later became a public servant in Nigeria and internationally. She led Nigeria’s ministry of education and also served as vice president for Africa at the World Bank, using both positions to advocate for society’s most vulnerable. She is also a fierce pro-democracy activist and co-founder of Transparency International, the world’s foremost anti-corruption institution.

When Boko Haram abducted 300 Chibok girls in 2014, Oby was one of the first to speak out. She co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, taking to the streets and galvanizing global calls for action. Even in the face of threats and intimidation from extremists, Oby refuses to remain silent.

“We need a collaborative disruption of the present acceptance of extremism, especially targeting women,” says Oby. “Wherever women are being attacked by extremist ideas — whether it’s our Chibok girls or women in Syria — it’s the same underlying philosophy and the world cannot afford to stay in this state of complacency.”

Oby is unapologetic about her bold vision for Nigeria and her continent, Africa. She recently ran for president — as the only female candidate — and is currently working to transform broken systems of public leadership. She is mobilizing citizens to lead the change of political culture, build democratic values which will ensure equality of opportunity to everyone in order that marginalized groups have a chance to thrive.

Oby was selected as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honoree.