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Fellows: Amujae Initiative keeps touch of women leadership burning

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By Winston W. Parley

Young African women leaders who are part of the Amujae Leadership Initiative, the flagship program of the Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center), say the Initiative serves one singular purpose, which is “keeping the touch of women’s leadership burning.”

At the climax of the Amujae Leadership Forum on Sunday, 31 October 2021 in Monrovia, four participating young African women leaders in persons of  Madam Kula Fofana and Madam Cornelia Kruah – Togba of Liberia; and 2021 Amujae Leaders Isata Kabia and Yakama Manty Jones of neighboring Sierra Leone, addressed journalists, sharing their respective experiences.

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Mrs. Sirelaf

Madam Cornelia Kruah – Togba said at the age of 15 years, started being a fan of former Liberian President Mrs. Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf and also got interested in politics and everything around leadership because she was inspired by the bravery of a Liberian woman who went from one campaign tour to another in the communities.

For Kruah – Togba, being a part of the Amujae Initiative serves one singular purpose which is “keeping the touch of women’s leadership burning.”

“Amujae Initiative for me is that [initiative] that will help … bridge whatever gap we have and get more Liberian women, African women interested in leadership, but not just being interested, but get you to where you want to be as a woman in politics or in leadership,” said Kruah – Togba.

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Former US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac

Madam Isata Kabia, a member of parliament and a  2021 Amujae Leader from Sierra Leone, said it is an absolutely great opportunity to be in the presence of women leaders from across Africa who may be facing the same challenges as you are and to be able to witness real courage and moral courage from those women.

She said her take away from the Amujae Forum is “refuse to leave the room,” saying she is glad as a member of parliament for the spectacular different experiences from women at the forum.

Madam Kabia encouraged women to get tired of “the exploitation,” attacks, and vindictiveness and step up with more energy, more drive, more determination, and realize that giving up would mean giving up on their country and that the light that shines on the space they occupy might be occupied by darkness.

She added that the affirmation from the forum is that they can refuse to leave the room in service of their country.

Madam Kula Fofana, another Liberian Amujae Leader, explained that while in high school as a student leader, she became inspired to follow former President Sirleaf’s journey, having seen her go through a lot and did so much.

Fofana said her election as high school president further gave her the courage and opened her eyes to understand that it is possible to have someone like former President Sirleaf.

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Looking back at her childhood challenges as a refugee in Sierra Leone during Liberia’s civil war, Madam Fofana said being a part of the Amujae Initiative is not something that she would have imagined being connected to get coached by big names like former U.S. Ambassadors to Liberia Linda Thomas Greenfield and Deborah Malac.

She said she is very grateful for such an opportunity in her leadership journey.

Yakama Manty Jones, a 2021 Amujae Leader from Sierra Leone described the Amujae Leadership program as life-changing, noting that what she learned is that women do support other women in a genuine way.

Madam Jones, a Sierra Leonean civil servant, said what she has learned through the Amujae Initiative is that you must choose your own space and stay your course, adding that the support system is what the program provides.

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Dr. Week, Executive Director EJS Center

Further, Madam Jones explained that there are a lot of takeaways from the three days Forum in Monrovia, but one of those is a change journey and leadership journey, saying there’s a lot of space that women leaders can occupy, not necessarily in politics.

Madam Jones suggested that as Amujae Leader, you can bring women along as in different fields, not limited to politics, but there are a lot of tools that you can leverage because bringing other women along does not necessarily mean that one woman must succeed another woman in an office.

Women leaders from across the African continent ended the Amujae Forum on Sunday, hailing the great experiences they got through the program EJS Center.

The Amujae Initiative is the EJS Center’s flagship program which prepares women to excel in the highest echelons of public leadership and bring other women along.

Drawn from a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds, the Amujae Leaders include members of parliament, a governor, a mayor, and several government ministers from 16 countries across Africa. 

They were selected through a rigorous application process from hundreds of applicants and they each have a track record of demonstrable achievements in public life and a drive to uplift African women and girls.

This year’s forum was the first gathering of Amujae Leaders since the official launch on March 8, 2020, on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Focused on the theme “Building Resilience,” the forum aimed to equip the Amujae Leaders with the tools to continue their leadership journeys through uncertain times and support their respective countries in rebuilding following COVID-19. 

It also harnessed the power of these accomplished women leaders in advancing women’s leadership in Liberia and across the African continent.

During the forum which climaxed Sunday, Amujae Leaders shared their strategies for building resilience and encouraged each other to persevere in pursuing their goals.

In the press conference that followed the climax of the forum on Sunday, Liberia’s former President Mrs. Johnson – Sirleaf addressed the media alongside former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and now EJS Presidential Foundation Board Chair Amb. Deborah Malac; and EJS Presidential Center Executive Director Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks.

Sharing the platform with Mrs. Sirleaf also were Madam Yawa Hansen -Quao, a 2020 Amujae Leader from Ghana; Madam Fatoumatta Njai, 2021 Amujae Leader from The Gambia; Umra Omar, 2021 Amujae Leader from Kenya and Ghada Labib, 2021 Amujae Leader from Egypt.

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