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Friday, August 16, 2013

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa's first female Head of State

If some countries are still speculating on the possibility of having their first female Head of State, Liberians have their own for the past eight years. Her name is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the 24th President of Liberia and the first woman elected Head of State on the African continent, is shaping history since her first presidential election.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 
In spite of her numerous international honors, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf may still be unknown by the international scene. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, Liberia on October 29, 1938. She is the granddaughter of a traditional chief of renown in Western Liberia and a market woman from the southeast.


In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the Liberian presidential election for the first time. She won against the popular world-class soccer star George Weah with 59.4 percent of the vote. Upon her first presidential victory, this former Liberian government official has inherited a war-torn country desperately looking for peace. This is why she is credited for leading Liberia in its current stable state.

Her historic inauguration took place on January 16, 2006. In 2007, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civil award for her outstanding courage and her dedication for her country. Three years later, Newsweek Magazine named her one of the World Top Ten Leaders.

In 2011, she was re-elected for a second term and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her “nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights.” In a ceremony held in Oslo, she shared this international recognition with two other female activists and political leaders: Liberian social worker and peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni journalist and political activist Tawakkol Karman.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has actually started her distinguished political career in 1972. On that year, she has delivered a commencement address to her high school alma mater that vividly criticized the government. After graduating from the College of West Africa at Monrovia, she pursued her higher education in the United States. There, she obtained her bachelor's degree in accounting from Madison Business College in Madison, a degree in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Havard University in 1971.

This political leader, who has shattered the glass ceiling for future female political leaders in Africa, is also a survivor. She spent more than a year in jail under the military dictatorship of General Samuel Doe and her life at risk under the rule of President Charles Taylor. However, her passion for the betterment of her country drew her back to the land of her ancestors, where she had advocated against the military regime.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has held leadership positions at the national and international levels, preparing her to the one she currently helds. In 1979, she was the Minister of Finance of Liberia under the administration of President William Tolbert. She served as the President of the Liberian Bank of Development and Investiment (LBDI) but fled from Liberia after the 1980 military coup d' état. 

In exile in Kenya, she served as the Vice-President of CITICORP’s Africa Regional Office in Nairobi. Later on, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she served as the Senior Loan Officer at the World Bank and the Vice-President for Equator Bank. In 1992, she joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as Assistant Administrator and Director of its Regional Bureau of Africa with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Through her hard work and her fierce dedication to the well-being for her country and the African continent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is now elevated to the rank of outstanding world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher. Certaintly, Africa's first female President is shaping history.

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