Okonjo-Iweala arrives Geneva office, accepts apology from Swiss newspapers over ‘grandmother’ remarks


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala arrived at her office in Geneva on Monday, 1st March to resume duty as the Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), after a long, high-powered career serving as minister of finance and foreign affairs in her native Nigeria and 25 years at the World Bank.

Interestingly, Ngozi who is the first woman and first African WTO DG arrived with a trademark fashion statement, decked in African wax fabric.

The Nigerian-American DG, arriving at the office in a two-piece Ankara ensemble was received by officials of the organisation.

The two-time former Nigerian finance minister started work, with a distractive controversy generated by a Dutch newspaper, which had derogatorily referred to her as the “grandmother new chief of WTO”.

READ ALSO: Association of Women Journalists congratulates Ngozi Iweala, describes her as pride of women

“It is important and timely that they’ve apologised,” Ngozi said in a tweet.

Ngozi tweeted the apology on Monday and thanked all the people who had petitioned the paper.

But when several Swiss newspapers announced her appointment last month, they decided the most noteworthy thing to mention about the new WTO chief was as a matriarch.

“This grandmother will become the boss of the WTO,” read the headline of the article published by the Aargauer Zeitung and several other papers on 9 February.

READ ALSO: Ngozi Iweala confirmed as Director-General of WTO

After a number of women heads of UN agencies and more than 120 Ambassadors in Geneva last week signed a petition calling out the headline as racist and sexist, the paper apologised.

“This headline was inappropriate and unsuitable… We apologise for this editorial mistake,” the paper’s foreign editor-in-chief Samuel Schumacher said in a statement on Friday.

In her tweet, Ngozi welcomed the apology and said she was “thankful to all my sisters, UN Women Leaders, and the 124 Ambassadors in Geneva who signed the petition on calling out the racist and sexist remarks in this newspaper.”

“We need to call out this behaviour when it happens,” she insisted, decrying “the stereotypes women face when they take on leadership positions.

She said the headline debacle reflected the problems raised in a book she co-authored with former Australian prime minister Julie Gillard called “Women and Leadership.”


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