Africa’s Ex-Female Presidents Discuss Women Leadership Issues -Push for More Female Generation of Leaders

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Former female Presidents of Africa are overwhelmed with the quest for increased women leadership on the continent, promising to help expand the number of women ready to hold leadership in African.

At a joint press conference on March 6, 2020 at the Farming Hotel in Margibi County – Liberia, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Malawian President Joyce Banda and former Acting President of the Central African Republic, Madam, Catherine Samba-Panza, spoke of the need for exertive female leadership at every level across Africa. The two female African leaders – Banda and Samba-Panza visited Liberia last week to participate in the launch of Ellen Johnson Center for Women & Development with its flagship – The Amujae Initiative- which is intended to push an expansion of women leadership quest on the continent.

Invariably the three female personalities were in one accord on the question of women leadership expansion in Africa, and were unanimous on grooming more future women leaders and expressed the hope that the Amujae Initiatives, through the EJS Center for Women & Development will help promote the expansion of the number of women ready to hold leadership on the African continent, including Liberia. Their joint conference which preceded the launch of the Ellen Johnson foundation was more of a question and answer when they responded to questions from journalists.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

For former Liberian President Sirleaf, by expending women leadership in Africa, women will be in positions in all areas in the society to promote the policies programs and opportunities for other women. Starting from the girl child to better educational opportunities right on up to the highest level of society.”

   The joint press conference was mainly about setting the stage of the launching of the Center and its Flagship – The Amujae, which in the Liberian Kru dialect means “We are going up.”  The launch did take place on Sunday, March 8, 2020, a day that coincided with the International Women Day – a day set aside to recognize the achievements of women globally.

It was not however a mistake to launch the Center and its Amujae Flagship, the main convener of the conference said the vision for the Amujae Initiative is to reposition the scenery for women in public leadership in Africa, moving from a culture of tokenism to one that embraces and recognizes the truly values of women leadership on the continent.

Amujae’s mission, Madam Sirleaf reiterated, is to inspire and prepare women to unabashedly and unapologetically take up roles and excel in the highest echelons of public leadership, and to bring other women along. “Representation is important – by increasing the number of women in public life and leadership, the Center will amplify the voices of all women and girls across Africa,” the former Liberian leader asserted.

The President emeritus spoke of other aspects of the Center, which she said will include amassing available and hidden books and other materials on Liberia in a Library that the Center is expected to set up. These materials, she said will include collections that she was able to gather over her many years in leadership.

Madam Sirleaf said, “There is the exhibition part of it; the archives in which all that I have been able to achieve through memorabilia will be available; presidential papers that reflect the works I have done over the two terms of my presidency – all of those will be available for Liberians, Africans and others to access to be able to use them as inspirations and motivation as they pursue their leadership goals.”

While women maybe the primary goal of the Center, the resource materials that will be in the Center will also be used not by women alone but other genders in current and future generations, adding that the library will not just contain only her works, but works of other great women and men on the continent and beyond.

Sources of Funding for the Center

Madam Sirleaf also addressed the questions of sources of funding for the foundation and its premium flagship, why in fact she aspired to building a women center.

On the question of funding, Madam Sirleaf pointed to a foundation based in Washington D.C., she established in the USA, which she said is headed by former US Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Linda Thomas Greenfield, and added that the foundation has also been able to also get a 501C3 that enables people to contribute and get certain tax benefits under this program.

“We have a fiscal sponsor that works with the U. S. foundation to ensure full compliance with US regulations relating to 501C3 and proper accountability and transparency. The Foundation will support programs of the Center that meet the compliance criteria,” she stated.

Former President Sirleaf further indicated she has made some financial contributions from a prize she won after she left the presidency, while others, too, have made financial contributions. At the moment, the former Liberian leader said there are no physical structures on the ground as money provided by the foundation only goes toward funding of the Center’s programs at the moment, noting that she runs the foundation from her small offices at her residence.

 Former Malawian President Banda

Addressing the media in Liberia at the press conference, the former Malawian President Joyce Banda gave immense credit to Madam Sirleaf for being the first to break the glass ceiling of women leadership. Madam Banda also recognized the role of African men for who she said took the courage to open up space allowing African women to contribute in leadership on the continent.

She remembered that in pre-colonial Africa, women were already in leadership on this continent, citing Ghana, where a woman leader refused to receive the colonists; and had to leave her country and die in exile.

She noted that for this reason, women were sidelined from participating in leadership when the colonists came to Africa. Former Malawian President Banda also related that when African men, including Dr. Kweme Nkrumah and other Pan-Africanists started fighting for self-rule of the continent, women stood side by side their men and fought, too, citing the cases of the likes of Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf amongst others who came before her time and fought.

She specified that even though Madam Sirleaf broke the glass ceiling by being Africa’s first democratically elected female President, African women were already self-confident about their leadership capability. We have done well. What we have done haphazardly without being well organized as Madam President is trying to do, has made us find ourselves to State House,” she added.

President Banda said though some countries which have had 200 and more years of democracy but are still struggling to try and get their first woman into their State House., saying that Africa has had only five.

She further added: “The country with the highest number of women in parliament in the world is on the continent of Africa—63% in Rwanda. So, Africa has done well. She, however, acknowledged that African women have been far behind but with the caliber of African women now in leadership.

Former Acting President of Panza

Speaking through an interpreter, former acting President Catherine Samba-Panza, of the Central African Republic said Madam Sirleaf’s works on the continent, have inspired all of them.

She maintained that in as much the former Liberian leader’s works have motivated them to aspire for greatness, it’s now time that they move beyond theory into practicality by raising more African women leaders that will take roles in their respective countries.

She praised former President Sirleaf for her initiatives, which she thinks will enable younger women on the continent to aspire for greatness.

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