It may come as a surprise that every once in a while, Muslim females take a break from being “oppressed and/or more oppressed” to rule a country or two, Nishi Fatima wrote in BrownGirlMagazine.
Fatima was referring to one of the most recent Muslims to join this club — Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who became the ceremonial president of Mauritius on June 5.
Muslims are a minority in Mauritius
Born into a Muslim Indian family, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, 56, isn’t just the first female leader of Mauritius. She’s the first Muslim female leader. The percentage of Muslims in the Mauritius population is 20 percent or less.
“We are people of Indian, African, Chinese and European origin,” Gurib-Fakim said. But on Independence Day in Mauritius — March 12 — Mauritians remember “that we are only Mauritius people.”
She’s married with children
She married Anwar Fuqim in 1988, and they have two children — Adam, 23, and Iman, 17.
She’s a scientist
Gurib-Fakim wrote more than 28 scientific books that have sold worldwide and are used as reference books by students and researchers. She holds an honorary doctorate from Pierre and Marie Curie University — formerly known the Sorbonne. She is also an honorary professor of Pretoria’s University of South Africa (UNISA).
“The nature of society in Mauritius is patriarchal but I was a little fortunate girl by joining education, especially (since) it was not free, and many of the girls did not get this right,” she said.
The Mauritius economy is strong
Mauritius is one of the least corrupt, wealthiest countries in Africa, a middle-income nation of about 1.3 million people with a per capita gross domestic product of just over US$9,000.
Once dependent on sugar exports, the island nation has built up strong tourism, financial services and outsourcing industries.
She’s a business leader
Gurib-Fakim was director of the Mauritius-based Centre for Phytotherapy Research, which does research on plants used in nutrition, cosmetics and therapy.
She’s family conscious
She dedicated her appointment as president to her parents, who she said “had the vision to educate their daughter at a time when it was boys who were given the priority.”
Ferdous Gharib, was born Oct. 17, 1959.
She achieved many firsts in a male-dominated environment: first female professor at the University of Mauritius, and first female dean of the Faculty of Science, serving from 2004 to 2010.
Appointed, not elected
Mauritius gained independence from Britain in 1968 and replaced Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state in 1992.
Former Mauritian president Kailash Purryag, appointed by the previous government, stepped down as the island’s figurehead a week before Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became president.
He had served since July 2012, when he was appointed by the previous Labour Party government of former Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam.
First female’s club
She’s Africa’s third current sitting president — sort of — joining President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic.
She oversaw preparation of the first inventory of aromatic and medicinal plants in Mauritius and the neighboring island of Rodriguez, providing scientific analysis of a number of plant alternatives to medicines for use against fungal diseases and diabetes.
She worked on environmental issues with World Bank
As a founding member of the Pan-African Association of Medicinal Plant, she participated as a consultant in meetings on environmental issues organized by the World Bank. She worked as president of the CEPHYR, in addition to being a lecturer in organic chemistry and deputy head of Mauritius University.
Her appointment was unanimous
The unanimous decision to appoint her as president followed the resignation of her predecessor, Rajkissour Borj.
Her job is to uphold the constitution
She said the job of president of Mauritius is to be guardian of the Constitution, and the supreme cmmander of the Armed Forces, “although we do not have an army, but have paramilitary units.”