Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discusses vaccine and gender inequity in Africa

Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently joined other leaders and changemakers from around the world to discuss the current pandemic crisis, and how a gendered lens can benefit societies in the long term at Foreign Policy’s third annual Her Power Summit 2021

During her opening remarks, Madam Sirleaf referenced the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of when women leaders demonstrated their strength and prowess. She took the opportunity to praise strong women leaders in Germany and New Zealand who during the COVID-19 pandemic made decisions regardless of popularity, “but because it was the right thing to do.” She went on to highlight that it is essential we break the stereotype and attitude that women are a secondary class in order to create “a wave” of women leaders, “ready to do what is necessary.”

Madam Sirleaf went on to call on male leaders around the world to help break the gender-negative stereotype against women, and applauded those male African champions who have already pledged to support gender equality, saying:

“We don’t want women to be part of the exception, we want women to be part of the rule.”

Delving further into the world’s COVID-19 response, Madam Sirleaf was keen to highlight that there remain significant issues when it comes to Africa’s continued struggle to fight COVID-19. 

Host Ravi Agrawal agreed with Madam Sirleaf and noted that, “less than 5% of Africans are vaccinated… and women tend to face further inequity for a variety of reasons.” He then asked Madam Sirleaf if she believed the world has failed Africa, in response to which she unequivocally condemned the continued lack of vaccine equity and ongoing intellectual property issues preventing Africans from producing and disseminating vaccines: 

“It is not fair… that the manufacturing of vaccines is exclusively in the Western countries… we need to have the transfer of technology, and licenses, that will enable African countries that have the capacity to do so, to manufacture those vaccines, so that we can get the vaccines closer to the people affected.” 

Whilst nations in the global north are vaccinating up to 80% of their populations, the majority in Africa remain without, “they should do that , but not leave Africa behind.” She cautioned that “none of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

You can watch the full panel session and find out more here: https://vimeo.com/639089820

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