Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently joined Dermot Murnaghan on an episode of the Sky News Daily podcast to discuss the impact of COVID-19, the role of women’s leadership in the recovery, and the challenges that lie ahead.
“Africa has learned from the experience of Ebola and therefore was very timely to adopt the kinds of measures to address the pandemic, to be able to put in place what was required.”
She highlighted the importance of listening and collaborating during times of crisis, explaining how her government engaged community leaders and citizens in their response to Ebola. It was only through consultation with the community that they were able to bring everyone together, keep them informed, and build strong partnerships.
Madam Sirleaf went on to outline the key lessons taken from the Ebola crisis that can be taken into the global COVID-19 response:
“First, leadership. One has to have hands-on, exemplary leadership to take charge of what needs to be done to be able to guide the measures to the point of implementation.
Communication. We have to make sure we have timely, honest, reliable, information given to the public in a regular way…
And then, coordination. We have so many people helping us. Support coming from our own African countries, support from Europe, the United States, China, to make sure that they all brought to the table what they could do and have full coordination of that.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many have highlighted how women leaders around the world, from New Zealand to Germany, have handled the crisis differently than their male counterparts. Madam Sirleaf noted that women are often better equipped to provide empathetic leadership:
“Being able to have the people see you as sharing their pain, as understanding their problems, and then helping them to understand what the effects were, what could be done, and how limited was our capacity.”
Finally, she praised community healthcare workers for their role in tackling public health crises and called on leaders to give them the resources, support, and courage to persevere.
You can listen to the full podcast here.