Liberia: Former Pres. Sirleaf Wants More Women Excel in Leadership

Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has stated that while there are already leaders on the international stage, there are not enough women in leadership positions.

According to her, when women receive the proper training and competencies, they contribute value to the entire development effort.

“But the one area that has not had sufficiency in leadership is women, and I have looked at and others have done studies and research, empirical  evidence  on how women conduct leadership,” she said. 

Madam Sirleaf became the country’s 24th president in 2006 and Africa's first female head of state. Her win brought an inspiration to many women around the world and attracted over US$16 billion in foreign direct investment and hundreds of millions more in foreign aid for Liberia.

During her regime, lots of women ascended to leadership positions, and headed various ministries and agencies.

According to the Visionary Young Women in Leadership (VYWL) Report on Women’s Empowerment in Liberia “Diamond Leadership Role Model” Project women are still underrepresented in positions of leadership, particularly in politics, civil society, elected office, and the executive branch.

The research was conducted to better understand the challenges to women’s leadership and to find a way forward and examine women’s political empowerment in Liberia. 

“Please do your study and prove me wrong or right. When it comes to honest, courageous, committed leadership, women stand out,” said Madam Sirleaf. 

Speaking on the importance of leadership and equity in public service across Africa at the Center for Global Development with Emerging Public Leaders and Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in Washington, D.C, USA, she said “If you look at the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders that were bold in addressing the pandemic, many of them were women.

According to her, that was why she founded the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center For Women and Development (EJS Center) to train and mentor more women to become better leaders.

“Women bring value to the overall development effort and that is important that we have the repercussions of training, knowledge, abilities to be a part and contribute to national development.”

“They should have the opportunity. And it is not a question, I am not asking for a favor. Let women have the ability to compete and to stand their ground and hold the highest levels of positions,” she said. 

“I formed the EJS Center and we have the Amujae, our flagship program where we recruit women. And today we have two cohorts, 15 each from 16 African countries that have committed themselves to leadership,” the former Liberian president explained. 

She was inaugurated President of Liberia in 2006. With more than 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers and unemployment running at 80 percent, Sirleaf faced serious challenges. 

She immediately sought debt amelioration and aid from the international community

By late 2010, Liberia’s entire debt had been erased, and Sirleaf had secured millions of dollars of foreign investment in the country.
Sirleaf was one of the three recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to further women's rights, along with  Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karmān.