On the African continent riddled with patriarchal rules, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf she became the symbol of women’s empowerment when she became Libera’s first female president in 2006 and led the country for two consecutive terms.
Graduated in Economics and Public Policy from Harvard University, she has received more than 20 honorary awards and recognitions, including the Nobel Peace Prize, for her “non-violent struggle for women’s safety and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work”, together with Tawakkul Karman in 2011. The following year, she also received the award Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.
Pioneering woman, documented the journey in This Kid Will Be Great: Memoirs from a Remarkable Life of Africa’s First Woman President.
As Ellen continues her fight for gender equality, here’s a look at her words on why women deserve an equal seat at the table.
On women and leadership
“Ethnicity should enrich us; it must make us a people unique in our diversity and must not be used to divide us.”
“To girls and women around the world, I extend a simple invitation. My sisters, my daughters, my friends; find your voice.”
“Leadership is never given on a silver platter, you have to earn it.”
“Once the glass ceiling has been broken, it can never be put back together, no matter how you try to do that.”
“I think there are certain attributes in a woman that give her some advantages over a man. Women tend to be more honest, more sensitive to issues, and bring a greater sense of commitment and dedication to what they do. Perhaps because they were mothers, and being a mother you have that special attention for the family, for the young, for the children”.
“Women are working for change and I will be with them, and one of them, forever.”
“I demand more rights for women because I know what women can do.”
“We ask for justice, we ask for equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to all citizens be guaranteed to us and to our daughters.”
“Seeing gender as an integral part of the economy brings the true value of women into the conversation.”
“There will always be those who will tear us down and tear us apart because they want the status quo to continue. But together we can break down the barriers that have prevented women from achieving the equality they rightfully deserve.”
On women and the pandemic
“This year has pushed many of us to the limits of our ability, but it has also shown us the greatness that can be achieved when we work together towards a common goal.”
“What is needed now is equity. What is needed now is solidarity. What is needed now is humility. Each pandemic is unique. We must learn from COVID-19 so that we can better respond to its next phase and better prepare for the next pandemics we will face.”
“Building equitable and inclusive societies is more urgent than ever as we work to recover and rebuild amid COVID-19.”
“As we address the increasing cases of gender-based violence and the violation of women’s rights in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need further scrutiny of countries’ laws regarding the protection of women.”