When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first democratically elected woman president in Africa, she embarked on an arduous journey to bring Liberia into a new era of peace, democracy, and stability following years of civil war. Since then, she has become a role model for women leaders seeking to create positive change in Africa and across the globe.
Today, her legacy is inspiring the next generation of Liberian and African women to take on the challenge of public leadership and, like her, overcome bias against women in positions of power. Through the Amujae Initiative – the EJS Center’s flagship program – women leaders from across the continent are able to learn from her experience and advance on their own leadership journeys through mentorships, coaching, and the sharing of experience.
Madam Sirleaf’s influence on women’s leadership in Liberia and across the continent was recently recognized at the inaugural TIME100 Summit Africa and Gala in Kigali, Rwanda. Receiving the TIME100 Impact Award, she vowed to continue to empower young women and instill in them the belief that they can become agents of change despite the obstacles they might face along the way.
“I envision a world where women’s rights are not just acknowledged but fully realized, where economic opportunities are accessible to all, and where social justice prevails.”
She added that the award was a reminder that the pursuit of justice, equality, and peace “is not in vain,” and called for working toward “a future where our collective efforts lead to a lasting positive change.”
The TIME100 Summit Africa also included a fireside conversation with Madam Sirleaf moderated by TIME’s Senior International Correspondent Aryn Baker in which they discussed the wider impact of her leadership legacy. The conversation was followed by a panel discussion where Actress, Playwright, and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Danai Gurira – a recipient of the TIME100 Impact Award – and Founder and CEO of Southern Africa Embrace Foundation, Sindy Zemura-Bernard joined Madam Sirleaf in exploring the variety of measures that can be adopted to advance gender equality in Africa.
Centered around the initiatives to promote women’s economic, political, and social equality and inclusion on the continent, the discussion highlighted the various approaches to addressing gender inequalities and the importance of supporting young African women with mentorship and leadership programs.
Women’s access to positions of power, as underscored by Madam Sirleaf in this TIME piece, is gaining momentum and will add impetus to the efforts – on our continent and around the world – to foster women’s public leadership and ensure that equality prevails in all spheres of life.
Watch Madam Sirleaf’s full acceptance speech at the TIME100 Impact Awards here.