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One year on: Celebrating the launch anniversary of the EJS Center and the Amujae Initiative

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf joined the inaugural cohort of Amujae Leaders to salute their achievements and reflect on challenges overcome during the program’s first year.

At a virtual reunion held just ahead of International Women’s Day, Madam Sirleaf remembered her first “exhilarating” meeting with the flagship program’s inaugural cohort. She said:

“Every one of them came to it with talent, with determination, with readiness to have a stronger push toward their leadership journey. Despite the fact that we moved into a period of COVID-19 that may have hampered some of the activities that were to happen, each of them has remained strong— have gotten even stronger—and they have bonded even more through the platform they constructed.”

She urged the Amujae Leaders to “stay focused and stay the course,” despite all the difficulties the past year had produced:

“I hope you leave here more excited, more determined, more committed, ready to go on this journey. Not to be deterred by all the obstacles—because we will face them—but with the courage and determination to go beyond them on your road toward your goal.”

Amujae Leaders Angela Nwaka, Blen A. Sahilu, and Yawa Hansen-Quao kicked off the discussions with fond recollections of the inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum. They remembered their expectations of the program as they traveled to Monrovia, Liberia for the forum in March last year.

In a discussion on the personal and professional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amujae Coach and former President of Malawi Dr. Joyce Banda, and Amujae Leaders Aïda Alassane N’Diaye-Riddick, Cornelia Kruah-Togba, Oley Dibba-Wadda, and Malado Kaba shared some of their challenging personal experiences with COVID-19 as well as the strategies they employed to be of greater service to their communities, constituents, and countries in response to the pandemic.

The conversation then turned to contesting in elections and the consequences of taking a stand as a public or political leader. Former President of the Central African Republic and Amujae Coach Catherine Samba-Panza, Colorado State Representative Naquetta Ricks, who is the first Liberian-American elected as State Representative, and Amujae Leader Fadzayi Mahere described how they navigated the challenges arising from political contestations and leadership. Each, in turn, delivered a powerful message about the importance of forging ahead in the face of difficulties.

In closing remarks, Amujae Coach and Honorary Consul General of Liberia to Uganda, Dr. Thelma Awori, and Amujae Leaders Clare Akamanzi, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, Kula Fofana, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE, and Hadiza Bala Usman reflected on the strong bonds formed between the Amujae Leaders over the past year, and how these relationships have been a source of affirmation and encouragement.

With a final thanks to the Amujae Leaders, Amujae Coaches, and other participants, Executive Director of the EJS Center Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, PhD, expressed her hopefulness about the Amujae Initiative’s future:

“We have created a sisterhood that I think will continue with us until the end. will allow us the opportunity to continue to develop this network and this bond to make a difference, to make our continent the best continent that it can be. And it can only be that when 50% of its citizens are in leadership to contribute to its growth and development.”

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