Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks at ‘Women Rise for All’ event, convened by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently spoke during the first ‘Women Rise For All’ event, which brought together strong women leaders from around the world for insightful discussions on the power of women’s leadership in the face of COVID-19.

The interactive event was convened by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and supported by the UN Office for Partnerships. ‘Women Rise For All’ featured Madam Sirleaf alongside several other inspiring women leaders, including the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, in a program moderated by former CNN anchor Zain Verjee.

In her speech, Madam Sirleaf highlighted women’s contributions to ensuring that the challenges presented by COVID-19 foster a more inclusive leadership style.

“The COVID pandemic has shaken us, abrupted us, and could have left us imprisoned by fear. But women at all levels have come together to say that this shaking, this abrupting must be used to build a better and fairer world, where the new roots will be intertwined with compassion and care. We are not only saying build better, we are saying, this time, build differently. ‘Women Rise for All’ is what women usually do, inclusion and not exclusion, and that is the critical difference.” 

Madam Sirleaf also spoke about the unequal ways in which COVID-19 affected societies, stressing that the pandemic revealed unheard vulnerabilities and inequalities that have always existed. “The truth was always there, those living life on the narrow and impoverished margins of great prosperity were saying we may be in the same sea, but we are definitely not in the same boat,” she said, emphasizing that women make up the majority of those who are at the most risk during this unprecedented crisis.

In this context of disparity in privilege and opportunities, Madam Sirleaf called for leaders of wealthier nations to continue resourcing the most vulnerable countries as they fight to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. 

Madam Sirleaf also addressed the need to go further than simply recognizing the unquestionable role that women’s leadership has played in tackling the pandemic. She ended her remarks by urging men in leadership positions across Africa to use this crisis as a unique opportunity to create systems that encourage and support women’s leadership, thus leading to a more equitable society.

“My hard-won title as the first elected African woman President is meaningless unless I see many others come after me. I call on my brother leaders to make a pledge at the next African Union summit, to change the leadership landscape within the next 3 years. I call on them to build upon what they have done already, to go one step further. I call on them to cast out the fear of losing out and to embrace the wonderful possibilities of a new post-COVID world, which should be better and different for all human beings.”

For more information about the event, click here.

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