Africa’s first female President and Nobel laureate, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told women aspiring for leadership on the continent and elsewhere to dream big or even bigger.
Launching the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center flagship Amujae, here on Sunday March 8, International Women Day, Mrs. Sirleaf encouraged women to participate in the program which is aimed at grooming women to take up future leadership roles in their countries.
“I hope to encourage everyone here today to participate in any way you can. Become a mentor. Lend expertise. Tell a story. Tell other people’s stories. Give support. Dream big. Come together and dream even bigger!” Mrs. SIrleaf said.
The launching of the initiative saw the gathering of high profiled international guests for the first time in the country since Mrs. Sirleaf left office. It also paraded the first batch of participants of women in leadership from across the continent that benefited from the initial training which began two days earlier ahead of the launching ceremony.
The guest list includes President George Weah, former Nigerian President OlusegunObasanjo, former Malawi President Joyce Banda, former Central African Republic President Catharine Samba-Panza, Former US Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas Greenfield, World Bank former Managing Director Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and newly nominated Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dr. Antoinette MonsioSayeh among an array of other international and local guests,
“Regardless of our ages, or where we come from, we are the same. We have so much more to do to lift women up in our own countries, in Africa and around the world,” Mrs. Sirleaf continued.
Mrs, Sirleaf reminded the audience that women are a proud bunch here, adding, “We are ambitious, driven, and unrelenting.”She argues that the Amujae Initiative will inspire women to unabashedly and unapologeticallyexcel in the highest echelons of public leadership.
Mrs. Sirleaf explained that the desire is to help capable women across the continent achieve their goals in political life and public service, to provide a lift for emerging public leaders.
She further explained that the aim of Amujae is to create a real and virtual space where women and girls can learn from, and lean on, one another, a network with peers across the continent. “A place to gain skills in leadership organization, fundraising, research and polling techniques, and most importantly, become each other’s advocates and storytellers”, she added.
The Africa first female president said the Amujae will provide a sense of true belonging – “something that I never had. And I know it did not exist for my dear sister Joyce Banda from Malawi. And Joyce and I have our war wounds to prove it! We both had to prove – over and over – that an African woman was capable of being a leader – in a corporation, in a political party, and finally as head of a nation. I believe Catherine has a similar experience,” she narrated as she said the new initiative will provide the platform to teach the hard lessons they have painstakingly learned to pull each other up.
Also speaking former US Ambassador to Liberia Madam Greenfield who is the Chair of the Amujae U.S.A branch said Mrs. Sirleaf has set the standard for women to follow during her 12 years reign.Amb. Greenfield said the Presidential Center library will leave behind a lasting legacy that many would come and benefit from.
For his part, former Nigerian President Obasanjo acknowledged the firm determination of President Sirleaf in her desire to lift women in leadership. He gave an upbeat appraisal of his personal role in African politics and how Nigeria was able to negotiate its debt relief through his former Finance Minister Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, a woman.
In a keynote address, President George Weah acknowledged President Sirleaf describing her as an illustrious one who is well known for her exemplary leadership, both at home and abroad. Her career, he says has spanned a lifetime of extraordinary achievements, many of them as the first female to attain such heights.
Mr. Weah pledges his government support to the Ellen Johnson Sirlreaf President Center. He said as a nation Liberia will remain proud of Mrs. Sirleaf’s notable achievement. By Othello B. Garblah