Earlier this week, the inaugural cohort of Amujae Leaders joined a virtual session with United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. This discussion was part of a series of conversations the EJS Center facilitated between Amujae Leaders and luminary women in public leadership.
The Amujae Initiative is the Center’s flagship program, launched in March 2020. Amujae, pronounced ӓ mōō jāēē, means ‘we are going up’ in Kru, a Liberian language. The mission of the initiative is to inspire and prepare women to unapologetically take up roles and excel in the highest echelons of public leadership, and to bring other women along.
Ms. Mohammed, who is also an Amujae Coach and the former Minister of Environment of Nigeria, spoke about her journey in public service and global leadership. At the UN, she led the process that resulted in the creation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which “serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
When speaking about her leadership journey, Ms. Mohammed highlighted the importance of being vocal and building a network of support:
“I was very loud about the issues I cared about. I was very focused and targeted in terms of looking at the barriers, whether that was an institution or people, and going after them. And I learned to do it not just as an individual – we did things together... I did it with other women, and I must say I did it with men as well.”
Ms. Mohammed also encouraged the Amujae Leaders to take opportunities that are offered, telling them: “Given any position at a table, any moment in time when a woman is asked to occupy a space – grab it.”
When speaking about moving into global leadership, Ms. Mohammed said:
“Your experience needs to be more solid than the paper you carry, because no one can take away your knowledge of an issue or practice… You must get yourself into the space and be visible, get noticed, and keep in touch with the people you meet.”
Ms. Mohammed also emphasized three essential factors that have helped her to be effective in her work advancing the SDGs: the unwavering support of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, her determination to make the UN better, and her refusal to cross red lines that she set for herself. She then shared her “five fs” for being effective in work: “Faith, family, laser-sharp focus, fearlessness, and flipping the orthodoxy.”
The Amujae Leaders also had the opportunity to ask Ms. Mohammed questions about staying grounded, chipping away at patriarchal systems, mentorship, and work-life balance.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also took part in the virtual session, lauded Ms. Mohammed for her efforts to bring more African women into leadership positions at the United Nations. In her closing remarks, she thanked Ms. Mohammed for sharing her knowledge, saying: “I’m sure each one of us leaves here inspired and motivated to be stronger in the things we pursue.”