“I was the first woman president of an African nation, and I do believe more countries ought to try that.” Those were the words that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used to open her TED Talk, which was recently released on TED’s website, reaching a global audience of more than 700,000 people and counting.
The talk, titled “How women will lead us to freedom, justice and peace” was delivered at the TEDWomen 2019 Conference in Palm Springs, alongside speakers including Amujae Leader Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE, actor and activist Jane Fonda, and other inspirational women making change around the world.
In her talk, Madam Sirleaf recalled the challenges of assuming the presidency of Liberia in a post-conflict context, sharing how Liberian women helped rebuild their country after years of civil war.
“Women had been those who suffered most in our civil conflict, and women had been the ones to resolve it. Our history records many women of strength and action…I knew that I had to form a very strong team, with the capacity to address the challenges of our nation. I wanted to put women in all top positions, but I knew that was not possible, and so I settled for putting them in strategic positions.”
Madam Sirleaf encouraged other leaders to follow the same path, engaging and empowering women leaders to create more developed, prosperous, and peaceful nations.
“In too many places, political parties are based on patronage, patriarchy, misogyny that try to keep women from their rightful places, that shut them out from taking leadership positions… And so we must continue to work to change things. We must be able to change the stereotyping. We must be able to ensure that those structural barriers that have kept women from being able to have the equity they rightfully deserve.”
In her continuing efforts to uplift a generation of women prepared to take leadership positions, Madam Sirleaf finished the TED Talk by highlighting her goals with the launch of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development.
“Together, over a ten-year period, we strongly believe that we will create this wave of women who are prepared to take, unabashedly, intentional leadership, and influence throughout society. This is why, at 81, I cannot retire.”
Enjoy the full talk below or on the TED website here.