Irene Opira is the founder of the Maisha gala Sweden African Women of the Year Awards

Maisha means “Life” in Swahili, a language spoken in East Africa.

Irene Opira
Irene Opira

Irene Opira is the founder of the Maisha gala. She is immensely proud of her African heritage and has been the project leader and producer of the gala since its inception in 2007. The same year she simultaneously introduced the Miss Africa Sweden concept, an initiative to show a broader definition of beauty which includes African ideals, empower young women and celebrate the beauty of diversity.

Irene was born in Kitgum Northern Uganda and is the daughter of Ugandan politician and legend Jeremiah Lucas Opira. The family fled from the Idi Amin regime and was invited to seek political asylum in Sweden during the mid-1970s. Irene has studied the Social Sciences at the University of Stockholm where she successfully completed a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Social Anthropology. She is currently working for the Swedish National Federation of Immigrant Women’s Associations and serves as a board member in several organizations including Noah’s Ark.

About Maishagalen




The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of  women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues. The 2012 theme: maternal mortality and maternal health on the African continent; the Stand Up for African Mothers campaign, in collaboration with AMREF/Flying Doctors.

Future goals

From 2012 the Maisha Gala will evolve into being incorporated as a central part of the newly established Maisha cultural association: Kulturföreningen Maisha. In the future the association is to develop and expand the Maisha concept in Sweden and beyond.

Maisha Galen 2012 – 5 year anniversary

Nominees and Winners

Woman of the Year – Margaret Gärding

This year’s inspiration – AnnaLena Tell Eriksson

This year’s entrepreneur – Adrianne George (Lind)

This year’s artist – Mary Ndiaye

This year’s newcomer: Josette Bushell Mingo

Maisha Pioneer Prize: Clementina Akuyo Brown

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