As the first democratically elected woman president in Africa, Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has created a leadership legacy, inspiring women and girls from across Africa to walk in her footsteps.
To honor her legacy, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2016 designated 16 January—the date of the inauguration of Madam Sirleaf’s first term as president—as Human Rights Day.
In an event organized to mark the 6th Human Rights Day, the EJS Center convened a group of distinguished guests and speakers to reflect on the legacy of Madam Sirleaf’s presidency and the state of women’s leadership across the continent.
The event was attended by Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Liberia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Marjon Kamara; Senator of River Gee County Conmany Wesseh; Sierra Leone’s First Lady Madam Fatima Maada Bio; Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Urban Sjostrom; ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia Josephine Nkrumah; EJS Center Interim Executive Director and Board Secretary Oley Dibba-Wadda; Liberia’s cultural icon and performer Yatta Zoe and writer Beulah Nimene.
Noting Madam Sirleaf’s critical support for greater representation of women in public leadership, the speakers emphasized the importance of women’s participation in every aspect of life on the continent. Her strong and continuous advocacy for women’s leadership is a source of inspiration to many African leaders, they added.
In her address, Madam Sirleaf stressed the transformative impact of women’s leadership in Africa and around the world:
“ in the international community are showing their worth, and we are proud of them.”
She added that young girls must be “protected and given the chance to advance beyond the traditional limits. We want to see them grow up and take up leadership roles in every field. That is our aim.”
The event also featured the iconic Liberian musical artist Yatta Zoe, who performed her hit song ‘Belle Yallah’ about the notorious prison that housed political prisoners and was permanently closed by Madam Sirleaf.
Madam Sirleaf was elected president of Liberia in 2006 and served two consecutive terms. She led the country through reconciliation and recovery following years of civil war and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011.