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To empower more women, we must disrupt the status quo, says former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Great progress towards increasing the number of women in leadership positions has been made, but there is still a long way to go, said former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at an event hosted by NYU Abu Dhabi.

During the conversation on ‘Blackness Without Borders,’ Madam Sirleaf emphasized the need to disrupt the status quo with changes to constitutions and the creation of laws that enable women to step into leadership roles.

On her own route to leadership, Madam Sirleaf recalled her feelings when, following her inauguration as President of Liberia after a long and challenging journey, it was time to get to work:

“There is no playbook. There is no model. There’s nothing to go by. It’s just you, and your vision, and your agenda, and your dreams.”

Madam Sirleaf also spoke about challenges that she faced along the way, and touched on her experience of both prosperity and poverty. Rather than being catapulted into high leadership, she said, her journey was one of training, learning, challenging, and failing:

“My story is the story of so many women all over the world. I bring to it the same kind of enthusiasm and determination… The passion of being a woman and the fact that women have been disadvantaged for so long… When you reach a point of leadership you know you’re going to be an object of curiosity and an object of attention. Sometimes an object of criticism. But you also know that you represent the aspirations of women all over the world, and what you do will affect them and their own progress in the future.”

At the close of the event, Madam Sirleaf reiterated the importance of women standing together to dismantle the barriers that have prevented them from pursuing and attaining leadership roles. As the COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight the interdependent nature of our world, women must work together and commit to being activists for change, she concluded.

You can learn more about the event here.

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