Madam Sirleaf calls for resilience, foresight, and persistence to empower women and girls

Achieving women’s political and economic advancement requires a global movement beyond standalone initiatives, wrote former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a recent op-ed for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Authored with Algene Sajery, Vice President of the Office of External Affairs at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the article calls on civil society, governments, entrepreneurs, and investors to “catalyze and amplify our efforts” to empower women and girls around the world. 

Women play an essential role in forging peace and stability, yet

women around the world are challenged at almost every turn to fully participate in the economy and build a secure future for themselves and their families. They are less likely to work in the formal economy, hold a position in management, earn a living wage, and have access to financial services.”

Madam Sirleaf and Ms. Sajery noted that this disparity is worse in developing countries, since women are expected to take on most of the responsibilities for family care and upkeep of smallholder farms that provide food. While women provide 90% of labor in food production and sales in Liberia, just 28% of women have a bank account, they pointed out. 

These inequalities “are often rooted in restrictive government policies and patriarchal norms,” such as restrictions on women owning property and the challenges young girls face to attend and stay at school. 

Around the world, organizations and governments are supporting essential programs that will boost women’s economic and political empowerment. For example, through the Amujae Initiative, the EJS Center works to prepare extraordinary African women to take the highest positions in public leadership and unleash a wave of women leaders on the continent. At the Generation Equality Forum in June, the DFC announced targets to mobilize $12 billion for projects that will support women and girls. 

However, Madam Sirleaf and Ms. Sajery wrote that 

“standalone initiatives are not enough. These times – our times – require extraordinary resilience, foresight, and persistence through local and global movements for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Civil society, governments, entrepreneurs, and investors must work together to champion women’s political and economic advancement in order to achieve true global gender equality.

Read the full piece here.

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