‘The Future Is African… The Future Is Female’: Lifetime Achievement Award For Graça Machel At FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards Gala

Published 4 months ago
Nomzamo Mbatha, Graça Machel and Connie Ferguson at FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards 2024.

At the 2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards, held at the Emperors Palace in Johannesburg on Friday, March 8, African stateswoman and South Africa’s former first lady Graça Machel took home the 2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Lifetime Achievement Award. Machel dedicated the award to women both past and present.

“It has been a long moment and a long journey. It has been nearly eight decades of my journey. And as I stand here, what comes across my mind literally is the hundreds and thousands across the continent, across the globe – many women, most of them who are not here but many millions that are represented here by you today,” the founder of The Graça Machel Trust told a packed ballroom, accepting her award.

“Imagine I am standing here with the likes of Ma’Sisulu… those who are in my generation… We had dreams together, we fought together. And there were times we didn’t believe it would happen not only to have countries be free but more importantly to have women, young women taking what I call center-stage.”


Machel’s dedication to service is rooted in Mozambique’s struggle for self-rule and international advocacy for women and children’s rights. She has also dedicated her life to building equitable rights for women and children.

Machel produced a ground-breaking United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report, The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, that changed the way the United Nations and member states respond in conflict zones. She has worked in advocating for global health, child welfare, and women’s rights and empowerment.

The Graça Machel Trust she founded in 2010 focuses on advocating for women’s economic and social empowerment, food security and nutrition, education for all, as well as good governance.

In her speech, Machel stated that she will be using this award to encourage young women to uplift the continent. “At the Graca Machel Trust, we say ‘the future is African and the future is female’; this is the expression of what we see here tonight.”


She added it is the first time she has received an award in the presence of her family.

The star-studded evening celebrated women excelling in different sectors and industries across the continent. Other winners included South African middle-distance runner and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya (2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Champion of Change Award), Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis, South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha (2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Entertainer Award), South African actress Connie Ferguson (2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Media Icon Award), and CEO at EbonyLife Mo Abudu (2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Businesswoman Award).

The 2024 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards gala was held as part of the ninth annual FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit on March 8.