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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Amujae Leader Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr: Women leaders can set the agenda for Africa’s future

Today, more than ever, the EJS Center is committed to supporting the ascendence of inspiring women to the highest levels of public leadership, stressed former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a speech delivered at the launch of Africa.com’s Women Heads of State Initiative. She shared how the Amujae Initiative has created a wave of African women who are setting high standards for leadership. 

Madam Sirleaf—one of the 22 African heads of state selected by Africa.com to convene around a gender-focused agenda for the continent’s advancement—was joined in the launch event by former President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, and the current Prime Minister of Namibia Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

Amujae Leader Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, who is the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, also joined the event to discuss opportunities for Africa’s advancement, including driving the climate change agenda at COP27, vaccine manufacturing, and closing the inequality gap. 

The Amujae Initiative, Madam Sirleaf said, continues to support African women leaders through an extensive program of mentorship and unique networking opportunities with the aim of creating a multiplying effect across the continent:

“I mentioned the word ‘wave,’ and the idea is to create that wave of women holding positions, reaching back, and helping others to come along so they too can ascend to higher positions.”

Turning to the most pressing policy issues facing African countries, including addressing gender inequality, food security, and climate change, Madam Sirleaf said that women at all levels of society should have a role in determining the form these policies should take. Delivering a message of hope about the future of Africa, she said she is convinced that the continent has all the ingredients for economic growth and development, and “will find its place in a changing world.”

Mayor Aki-Saywerr discussed the main challenges and opportunities around climate action in Africa, particularly ahead of the COP27 negotiations in Egypt.

Speaking about the importance of local action in driving global agendas, she noted that as an African woman leader she is able to bring local communities’ concerns—such as the impact of climate change—to the discussion tables at the international level:

“There aren’t enough African voices on the global platform, so to shape policy, and to direct funding, and to challenge the international status quo going into these meetings, more of us is necessary.”

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr also called on African nations to come together and speak with one voice at the upcoming climate negotiations at COP27. This round of negotiations, she said, must deliver climate justice by ensuring that high-emitting countries bear the cost of the damage caused to Africa by climate change.

Watch the full event here.

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