Fmr. Pres. Sirleaf Takes The Microphone -Lectures on Women Rights, Private Life Activities

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Following many years of the tragic tendency of eliminating Presidents before they ended their constitutional tenures, Liberia’s democracy now is showing some feathers of maturity. The country can not boast of a former President not only alive, but also active and untroubled. The first lucky one in decades is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country’s and Africa’s first female President. Her successive predecessors—William R. Tolbert, Jr., Samuel K. Doe and Charles G. Taylor—were not as lucky. Her presence in the country gives the country’s peace and stability some aura of legitimacy and it recharges, for some Liberians, the nostalgia for a political past. Still apparently agile and innovative, the former President appeared on a popular talk show to speak to a range of national issues, including the launch of her post-presidential foundation and drumming patriotic sentiments amongst Liberians.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been speaking to the nation via a talk show hosted—the 50-50 Show of veteran talk-show host T. Max Jlateh, using the forum not only to drum up support for the pending conference of women under the auspices of the Amujae Foundation founded after exiting the Presidency and calling her Liberians to put on patriotic spirits for the good of the nation.

The way I live, what I do, what I say, I am the same person. Let me say I’m home. Now this is Liberia. I have my small office, from my small office. I am able to communicate. I can reach out to people, friends, associates, supporters. I do my work from there because I go around, I sit on some special committees, international committees, some boards; I go to some universities in my small offices; and it’s still in my house – the same house I’ve been in since 1970. If you go there, you will see my small garden. I get my okra there, potato grain, pepper, corn – they’re all there. I also go to my farm.  I always tell people I like my farm because when I was a small girl, my pa used to carry us to the farm. And when I am going to the farm – that hard work now because I have to go Freeport road. It’s just like Donzo masarch. You know Donzo masarch – Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor called Donzo Masarch – when Donzo was the Minister of Public Works; that I go to Duala –oh God; then I go to my own farm and the road too, the same way, and then when     I am going, that’s another one again; those coal drivers and myself can be fighting it out– they try to haul their coal and spoil the road. But I have a good farm. I am very happy that I have some workers there that are doing well; I am in a palm in business and a vegetable business.

But one thing that pleases me; that because I make a farm there, that has encouraged residents in all the villages to make farms. Many of them are doing so well growing vegetables and things. And sometimes I buy their things too to encourage them. And importantly, I am also helping the surrounding towns, the surrounding villages of my farm to own their own land. So I put up the money to survey the land for them and to process their deeds. Because that will enable them to have their deeds when any of them wants to invest in their farms.  And so those are some of the things I do here. My international work of course that’s important to me. That’s how I earn my livelihood, that’s how I am able to stay busy to stay active, to stay professional. So this is what I do. I live a normal life and a busy life.

Responding to questions about the profile of her foundation, the former Liberian leader said: “I am sure many people have heard you announce on the radio about the foundation, and many people know that we have invitation out because we are going to be launching the Ellen Johnson Center for Women & Development.”

According to Madam Sirleaf, the key objective of that center is to provide opportunities for women in leadership to achieve their position and get the highest leadership position in service.

She said this is being achieved through the combination of programing, research, advocacy, and exhibition.

“And let me talk about what that means,” the Amujae boss noted. “In programing, we have the means of being able to bring women together and to be able to promote them. To support, and to enable them to achieve their goals through better strategizing, through larger profiles, or what not. That’s the Amujae Initiative.”

In the area of research, she said, “I always talk about having a library over my many years of public service, both international and domestic. I collected a wide range of books – auto biographies, biographies, professional books, professional magazines and all of that. And so, I want to put all those together where scholars – international scholars and domestic scholars — will have the opportunity to come and read about the work of others.”

A lot of books have been written by Liberian authors, she said, noting: “And I don’t have all of them, but I hope over time I can obtain all or most of them so people can be able to read about their own citizens, about our history, about our country about their own ambitions, about their experiences or what not.”

Madam Sirleaf further said the organization would also research in the movement of the women used to support where they achieve their goals, drawing from research activities that have been undertaken by other entities.”

“And then we have the archives.  The archive is presidential papers,” she asserted, indicating that during her 12 years she was President, she wrote a lot, put a lot on paper, and developed a lot on how she managed as a leader, what she did and how she communicated.”

She added: “Some of my successes, my challenges are all into that. So these presidential papers, we want to preserve them for future generations. Well people can come and read what the President did. And I am glad that I got the approval of President Weah for us to access them; we’re working with some universities like Harvard University to make sure that they are properly preserved and of course they will be preserved here; the original belongs here.”

Madam Sirleaf also indicated that there would be exhibition. Part of the exhibition, she said, are my own medals, degrees and all of this is meant to encourage women, to see that they can achieve a whole lot, that they can really rise up, that they can be what they want to be if they just set their goals.”

The Launching of the Ellen Johnson Center for Women & Development will be on the 8th of March, which on is International Day of Women all over the world and it is a three-day session.

The first two days will be women leaders meeting amongst themselves. It will be launched at the Farmington Hotel at the Roberts International Airport because people who are coming will not have the time to reach into the city.

Former President Sirleaf said, going forward, she still have my house that she uses to promote the work of the Center; to promote her own personal work  – what she does internationally.

Regarding funding, the former President said: “Many people often say ‘she get plenty money; she is a billionaire! But that is so, so lie. What I got is earning power. And I have had that since I started working when I was 17 years old. The kind of work I did – some of them do not know I washed dishes.   All of my lifestyle they will read to know that to be where you are you get to work for it; you get to stay the course; you get to be committed – if you want to achieve it doesn’t come easy; it comes with some efforts. Fortunately, when I say earning power, it is because I work hard.”

Coronavirus – Ellen’s Take 

Former President Sirleaf, under whose leadership, Liberia and neighboring countries were afflicted the Ebola Virus Disease, acknowledged that the China-born Coronavirus is evidently in Africa but very limited.

“So don’t people talking about it much. All we know is two case entered Nigeria, But the Nigerian authorities will have moved very rapidly to address it. The contacted all of those from these people that come from China.  And they’ve done everything to make sure we have not heard of any fatality, we have not heard of spread,” she said about the dangerous virus that is keeping the world on edge.

She continued: “And to the best of my knowledge, we have not heard any other country to have someone affected.  So let’s not do it that it has entered Africa. You know in everything they like to put very bad news on Africa.  So, it is not true. Now all countries are taking precautions. And let us commend the Liberian Health Authorities and the airport authorities for what they have done. I have some people come in and told me how surprised they were at the rigorous protocol they have gone through. And so they have done that because of the experience we have with the Ebola Virus in the past.”

Private Life

The 50-50 talks show with former President Sirleaf started on lighter note—about her post-presidential life.

He told the show: “The way I live, what I do, what I say, I am the same person. Let me say I’m home. Now this is Liberia. I have my small office, from my small office, I am able to communicate. I can reach out to people, friends, associates, supporters. I do my work from there because I go around, I sit on some special committees, international committees, some boards; I go to some universities in my small offices; and it’s still in my house – the same house I’ve been in since 1970. If you go there, you will see my small garden.

“I get my okra there, potato grain, pepper, corn – they’re all there. I also go to my farm.  I always tell people I like my farm because when I was a small girl, my pa used to carry us to the farm. And when I am going to the farm – that hard work now because I have to go Freeport road. It’s just like Donzo masarch. You know Donzo masarch – Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor called Donzo Masarch – when Donzo was the Minister of Public Works; that I go to Duala –oh God; then I go to my own farm and the road too, the same way, and then when I am going, that’s another one again; those coal drivers and myself can be fighting it out– they try to haul their coal and spoil the road. But I have a good farm. I am very happy that I have some workers there that are doing well; I am in a palm in business and a vegetable business.”

She narrated further: “But one thing that pleases me is that because I make a farm there, I have encouraged residents in all the villages to make farms. Many of them are doing so well growing vegetables and things. And sometimes I buy their things too to encourage them. And importantly, I am also helping the surrounding towns, the surrounding villages of my farm to own their own land. So, I put up the money to survey the land for them and to process their deeds. Because that will enable them to have their deeds when any of them wants to invest in their farms.  And so those are some of the things I do here. My international work of course that’s important to me. That’s how I earn my livelihood, that’s how I am able to stay busy to stay active, to stay professional. So, this is what I do. I live a normal life and a busy life.”

She encouraged Liberians stop speaking negatively about their country, stressing that it is not in the interest of the country and its citizens when some of its people drum up nothing but negative narratives.

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