I am humbled and honored to have made the final cut from what I’ve learned was a very competitive field of candidates, to serve as Executive Director of this singularly and boldly unique Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. The first Presidential Center in Liberia; one that includes a library, archives, museum, and a flagship women empowerment Amujae Leadership Program. I am elated to be entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing its administration, programs and strategic plan, as well as aspects of fundraising, marketing, and community outreach. And, on this particular day, March 8, International Women’s Day (the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace), I am overjoyed to be participating in the Launch of the EJS Presidential Center for Women and Development!
The last couple of months have afforded me time for reflection, and I am convinced that this is where I should be/what I should be doing at this point in time in my life’s journey. My experiences thus far as a competitive athlete working with team members towards a common goal…to win; working as a research scientist, gathering data and evidence to appropriately provide answers to important questions, identifying and obtaining funding to run my research laboratory, facilitating the learning process of university students as a professor, as a teacher, developing needed programs, serving as advocate, mentor and role model, for a wide cross-section of people, especially females, and most recently heading an institution as university president; also, having received all of my foundational education, from elementary school to university, in Liberia at B.W. Payne Kindergarten, Monrovia Demonstration Elementary School, St Theresa’s Convent, College of West Africa, the University of Liberia, all have provided the tools that will serve me well in this exciting, timely and needed adventure. I am hyped, motivated and energized (I hope you can hear and feel the excitement in my voice!).
I shall serve the EJS Presidential Center for Women and Development (PCWD) as Executive Director with dedication, commitment and integrity.
Passion & Vision
Madame Sirleaf has a vision to embolden and empower women, to raise women’s ambitions to leadership positions; not just one woman here and one woman there, but waves of women leaders, through deliberate programing efforts that create pipelines of women aspiring to top positions. The vision also includes providing corrective lens for those in power (and I’m not only talking about political power), for those in power to see the importance, the necessity of including women in leadership positions. The library, museum, exhibitions and archives will preserve President Sirleaf’s experiences, her life’s work and legacy, for current and future generations, and will serve as a lighthouse for all.
No matter what side of the fence one sits or stands, the reality is Liberia’s 24th president, our 24th president is the first democratically elected female president on the continent of Africa, one who served two terms at the will of the Liberian people; and when her term was up after 2 6-year terms of leadership, she stepped aside, which was unprecedented for 7 decades of presidential leadership in Liberia. She is also a Nobel laureate and the first and only female so far to have received the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. There are so many firsts and experiences, that are inspirational, that should be digitized, preserved and celebrated, and this center will do just that.
What to look forward to for the Center
We can all look forward to a world class PCWD that has broad local, African and global appeal. I was particularly surprised to learn about the sparsity of Presidential Libraries and Centers on the Continent! And to have the first female presidential center located in Liberia (the first in all of Africa), and with the vision and the mission that it has, is phenomenal.
We look forward to a Center that will ensure that Liberia as it develops and grows, that Africa as it develops and grows will be gender equitable and inclusive withinits leadership landscape.
Call to Action
There is much work to be done and all hands are needed on deck. This second to none presidential center has many dimensions as you have seen and heard. There is a ‘bricks and mortar’ component, which includes a presidential library a museum, a training center, that needs to be built…funding is required; there are presidential papers and memorabilia that need to be collected, digitized, and archived, continually and sustainably; there are the Amujae Leadership Fora that must be sustainably implemented in a 3-sessions cycle annually.
This is a call to people of all walks of life, in every possible way, to get aboard this women empowerment and development train; brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, CEOs, bankers, farmers, market women, pehn-pehn drivers, teachers…all of us; be it donating our time as volunteers…pro bono legal services, providing financial support, providing ideas and expertise when and where needed, we welcome your productive assistance, participation and involvement. This very complex undertaking will present many challenges, but the anticipated outcomes should be worth it. So join us on this adventurous journey.
I would be remiss if I did not say…..
Thank you Susan Edwards for serving as Interim Executive Director for close to two years. You and your team have done an exceptional job with developing an excellent blueprint on which we will continue to build on. Thank you Rumbidzai Chisenga for planning and implementing the inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum, which has been exceptional. Thank you Allida Black and Lucia Massallee-Yallah for beginning the archival work, which I know is daunting, all things considered; thank you Madam Sirleaf’s office staff for your long hours and dedication; thank you Barkue Tubman-Zawolo (Boss Lady) for the awesome launch logistics; thank you Khalil Abou Jaoude for the venue; thank you Big Win Philanthropy through Jamie Cooper; thank you Betsy Williams, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Thanks to all donors for your continued financial support to the Center; no donation is too small and no donation is too big. Your contributions to the Center are all welcomed. Thanks to the Board of Directors for sage governance. As I will be reporting to you, my hope is for a cooperatively productive relationship.
Thank you everyone for taking the time to be here today.
I look forward to a tsunami of support for the Center, and participation and involvement with the Center’s activities and programs.
Thank you Madam Sirleaf for your vision and all who support the vision and mission of the EJS Presidential Center for Women & Development.
“We are today what we did yesterday; we will be tomorrow what we do today.”
“Amujae” – we are going up.
Before I sit, I would like for all of us to stand (those who can), and make a shout-out to Amujae. Amujae!
Ophelia Inez Weeks, PhD
Incoming Executive Director, EJS PCWD
Final Remarks EJS PCWD Launch Program
8 March 2020