Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently took part in the 7th annual Africa Forum hosted by global law firm Hogan Lovells. The event was held online with over 400 attendees and several panels featuring public and private sector leaders and experts.
Introduced by Andrew Skipper, partner and head of the Africa practice at Hogan Lovells, Madam Sirleaf delivered her speech in the closing session of the forum titled ‘Growth and Sustainability’. In her remarks, Madam Sirleaf noted the duty of care that both the private and public sectors share:
“Governments and business leaders share in the duty to care. To care that the greatest assets to business – people – are healthy and well. To care for the wellbeing of the people for which governments are constituted. It means we must care that the air that people breathe is clean, the water they drink is not contaminated, and the environment in which they live, and work is safe and sustainable.”
Madam Sirleaf also addressed the need to change harmful gender dynamics that have been brought to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments and multilateral lending agencies should be “scaling up support to the informal sector which predominantly employs women”, Madam Sirleaf said. She also emphasized the important role played by women leaders in the response to COVID-19, noting that without confronting these gender disparities we risk recreating a world rife with inequality. Madam Sirleaf said:
“It has been well documented that several countries who either have women at the helm or have gender equal leadership have done better in many ways in saving lives and mitigating the effects of the virus on the people of those countries. From providing the actual health response and providing social protection, to protecting the economy. I believe that it is in part due to the fact that many women have a radar for injustice having suffered so many forms of injustices and discriminations themselves.”
In order for growth and development to be effective, Madam Sirleaf highlighted the need for the global community to band together:
“Beyond our differences in race, gender, religion, and social orientations, we are all connected by a common thread that is humanity. We have common dreams to raise and care for our families, to be respected, to reach for the stars, and to live as freely and as best as we can. In the end, whether it be through the principles of ESG or the pursuit of the sustainable development goals, or whether it be in governing justly and fairly, we owe a duty to each other to enable humanity. To make our common thread not weak, but strong and capable of enduring.”
Madam Sirleaf shared her optimism that, in working together, the African continent and the global community can tackle the COVID-19 crisis and emerge stronger.
“I’m confident that the world also will survive this pandemic. However, we must not let ourselves become the same world of gender discrimination, prejudice, and bias that got attacked by the coronavirus. Our imperative must be to build back better as well as differently.”
Learn more about the event here.