“Grandmother” tag: Okonjo-Iweala accepts Swiss newspaper’s apology

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The new Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says she has accepted the apology offered by Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung which derisively tagged her a “grandmother”.

She stated this in a tweet on Monday.

The popular newspaper and several others, including Luzerner Zeitung and St.Galler Tagblatt, used the words “66-year-old Nigerian grandmother” or a version of it in their headlines of February 9 to describe Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as WTO DG.

This attracted heavy backlash to the newspapers from social media.

Although Okonjo-Iweala is indeed 66, Nigerian, and a grandmother, many critics of the newspapers wondered why her accomplishments such as Yale graduate, MIT Ph.D., former Managing Director of the World Bank, Chairman of the Board of Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, and Twitter Board Member were not used or given prominence in the newspapers’ headlines.

They queried if the Swiss newspapers could have described a white man or woman of commensurate accomplishments to Okonjo-Iweala as a “grandmother” in their headline.

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Last week, a number of women heads of UN agencies and more than 120 ambassadors in Geneva signed a petition calling out the headline as racist and sexist.

Aargauer Zeitung has now apologised for the “editorial mistake”.

Aargauer Zeitung’s foreign editor-in-chief Samuel Schumacher said in a Friday statement that the use of the word was “inappropriate and unsuitable”.

Reacting on, the new WTO DG said she accepted the apology, and thanked those who stood up for her.

“We need to call out this behaviour when it happens,” the former Nigerian Finance Minister stated.



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