Okonjo-Iweala accepts Swiss newspaper’s apology over ‘grandmother’ tag

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

‌Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has accepted the apology of a Swiss newspaper which dismissed her as a grandmother.

The development economist took over as the new WTO chief on Monday. She had previously served as minister of finance and foreign affairs in Nigeria and spent 25 years at the World Bank.

On February 9, an article by Aargauer Zeitung read: “This grandmother will become the boss of the WTO.”

The newspaper was forced to apologise 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.

“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.

However, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala in a tweet on Monday 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 & 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.