There is a say which often goes as such: “When things are so bad that they are irreparable, men leave the power to women or minorities!” (Just look at the USA!) Well… that’s what they will definitely say about Liberia, a country which had been in war for so many years and decades, that the system was so broken down, the country was a mess, no government, no law, no nothing!
And then was elected Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf! The first African female head of state! We even beat the USA, we got our woman in power! Yes… here comes the Iron lady of Africa. Few words will express what the inauguration of Mrs Sirleaf meant to me, and thousands of other girls and women across the continent. Truth be told, very few of us ever thought possible the day a woman would be president on our continent. Very few of us thought possible an actual country ruled by a woman, in Africa….! When I was young, I had read about Nzingha the queen of Angola, Hatshepsut the She-pharaoh of Egypt, Beatrice of Congo, Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia… to name just a few; but these emblematic African female leaders seemed so far removed from me, buried in the sands of the past, that as a young African woman my dreams to see a charismatic woman leader in the modern era seemed to be just that… a dream (I still wanted my dream to become a reality)!
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is an achieved economist who served as minister of finance of Liberia in the late 70’s. She once supported Charles Taylor against the bloody government of Samuel Doe… but later on criticized him once she realized he was perpetrating bloody crimes in Liberia as well. After Samuel Doe’s coup in 1980, she went into exile in Kenya where she worked for Citibank as director. She returned to Liberia to run against Doe, but was sentenced to 10 years in jail, and was again forced into exile. She later repeated the scenario in 1997 when she ran against Charles Taylor, but lost. She finally won the elections in 2005 to be the first elected female head of state of Liberia, and Africa. Hers is a story of perseverance, endurance, determination, courage, hard work, and above all love for her country. What brought her back so many times to Liberia? Lord only knows! What made her want to challenge Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, etc…? The good Lord only knows! One thing is sure, this is definitely an Iron Lady!
The video you will see below is a documentary on her first year in power entitled Madam President! It highlights her struggles and victories. How do you re-build a country where there are no institutions? where there are children soldiers? where there is no law? and where a claim to land means nothing after years of war! How do you do that? Well… watch Madam president! surround yourself with the best minds, and some strong women as well! I tell you… Watch and raise your hat to Mrs. President! Yeah… that’s right! Our very first woman president!
To find out more, check out Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wikipedia, read her book “This Child Will Be Great“. Laura Bush wrote a piece on her in Time Magazine after she and Condoleezza Rice attended Sirleaf’s inauguration. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by president Bush. Check out Follow the Leader to learn more about the people who made the documentary, and this article by BBC.