Okonjo-Iweala Reacts As Swiss Newspaper Tenders Apology For Referring To Her As "This Grandmother"

Aargauer Zeitung, a Swiss newspaper, has apologised for describing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a “grandmother”.

‘This grandmother will be the new chief of the World Trade Organization’; the headline of a February 9 report by Aargauer Zeitung read, prior to her appointment as the new WTO DG.

Aargauer Zeitung and two other newspapers, Luzerner Zeitung and St. Galler Tagblatt, were criticised for describing Okonjo-Iweala as a grandmother.

In a February 26 letter, Samuel Schumacher, foreign editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said Jan Dirk Herbermann, the author of the article, did not use the “inappropriate and unsuitable” headline.

“The author of the article, Jan Dirk Herbermann, did not write this headline. We did not inform Mr Herbermann about this headline. Therefore Mr Herbermann is not in any way responsible for this headline, ” the letter read.

“Mr Herbermann is our correspondent in Geneva and had filed us the article for publication. The original headline that Mr Herbermann drafted was: ‘For the first time an African woman moves to the top of the WTO’. However, we, the editors, did not use this headline.”

Reacting to the apology, Okonjo-Iweala said it was necessary to call out inappropriate behaviour whenever it occurs.

She further appreciated 124 ambassadors and heads of international organisations who sent a letter to the editors of the newspapers over the “sexist and racist remarks” in the article.

“I’m 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. It is important & timely that they’ve apologized, ” the tweet reads.

“We need to call out this behaviour when it happens. This is precisely what my book Women & Leadership coauthored with @JuliaGillard talks about – the stereotypes women face when they take on leadership positions.”

Okonjo-Iweala assumed office as the first-ever female and African WTO DG on March 1.

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