The incoming Executive Director, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS PCWD), Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, is calling on all Liberians to donate time as volunteers, financial and moral support to the EJS PCWD in its adventurous journey in training women and girls to take leadership roles in Africa.
Dr. Weeks said there is much work to be done on the Center and calls for all hands to be on deck in ensuring that this second to none presidential center in Liberia has many dimensions as you have seen and heard, to achieve its objectives.
The Liberian stateswoman enumerated the engagements of the center and said “There is a ‘bricks and mortar’ component, which includes a presidential library a museum, and a training center, that needs to be built.”
She indicated that funding is required; and pointed out that there are presidential papers and memorabilia that need to be collected, digitized, and archived, continually and sustainably; in addition to the Amujae Leadership Fora that must be sustainably implemented in a 3-sessions cycle annually.
Call to action
This is a call to people of all walks of life, in every possible way, to get aboard this women empowerment and development train; brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, CEOs, bankers, farmers, market women, pehn-pehn drivers, teachers…all of us; be it donating our time as volunteers…pro bono legal services, providing financial support, providing ideas and expertise when and where needed, we welcome your productive assistance, participation and involvement.”
She said this very complex undertaking will present many challenges, but the anticipated outcomes should be worth it; she therefore called on everyone to join them on this adventurous journey.
Regarding what to look forward to for the Center, Dr. Weeks said, “We can all look forward to a world class Presidential Center for Women and Development (PCWD) that has broad local, African and global appeal.
She said she was particularly surprised to learn about the sparsity of Presidential Libraries and Centers on the Continent, and asserted that to have the first female presidential center located in Liberia (the first in all of Africa), and with the vision and the mission that it has, is phenomenal.
“We look forward to a Center that will ensure that Liberia as it develops and grows, that Africa as it develops and grows will be gender equitable and inclusive within its leadership landscape,” she said.
She explained the passion and vision of the founder, Madame Sirleaf to embolden and empower women, to raise women’s ambitions to leadership positions; not just one woman here and one woman there, but waves of women leaders, through deliberate programing efforts that create pipelines of women aspiring to top positions.
She explained that the vision also includes providing corrective lens for those in power, and not only talking about political power, for those in power to see the importance, the necessity of including women in leadership positions.
The library, museum, exhibitions and archives, she said, will preserve President Sirleaf’s experiences, her life’s work and legacy, for current and future generations, and will serve as a lighthouse for all.
“No matter what side of the fence one sits or stands, the reality is Liberia’s 24th president, … is the first democratically elected female president on the continent of Africa, one who served two terms at the will of the Liberian people; and when her term was up after a two- 6-year terms, of leadership, she stepped aside, which Dr. Weeks said was unprecedented for seven decades of presidential leadership in Liberia.
Madam Sirleaf, Dr. Weeks said, is also a Nobel laureate and the first and only female so far to have received the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. There are so many firsts and experiences, that are inspirational, she added.
The incoming executive director of the newly established foundation, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Center for Women and Development, earlier introduced herself:
“I am humbled and honored to have made the final cut from what I’ve learned was a very competitive field of candidates, to serve as Executive Director of this singularly and boldly unique Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. The first Presidential Center in Liberia; one that includes a library, archives, museum, and a flagship women empowerment Amujae Leadership Program” Dr. Week said.
She furthered, “I am elated to be entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing its administration, programs and strategic plan, as well as aspects of fundraising, marketing, and community outreach. And, on this particular day, March 8, International Women’s Day (the United Nations [UN] Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace), I am overjoyed to be participating in the Launch of the EJS Presidential Center for Women and Development!
She said the last couple of months have afforded her time for reflection, and that she is convinced that this is where she should be, what she should be doing at this point in time in her life’s journey.
“My experiences thus far as a competitive athlete working with team members towards a common goal…to win; working as a research scientist, gathering data and evidence to appropriately provide answers to important questions, identifying and obtaining funding to run my research laboratory, facilitating the learning process of university students as a professor, as a teacher, developing needed programs, serving as advocate, mentor and role model, for a wide cross-section of people, especially females,” she appraised herself.
She said most recently, she said in she will be heading the EJS PCWD Launch Program as university president; who has also received all of my foundational education, from elementary school to university, in Liberia at B.W. Payne Kindergarten, Monrovia Demonstration Elementary School, St Theresa’s Convent, College of West Africa, the University of Liberia, all have provided the tools that will serve me well in this exciting, timely and needed adventure.
“I am hyped, motivated and energized (I hope you can hear and feel the excitement in my voice!), she said, saying: I shall serve the EJS Presidential Center for Women and Development (PCWD) as Executive Director with dedication, commitment and integrity.
Concluding her addressed, Dr. Weeks said she would be remiss if she did not congratulate her predecessor of the foundation, Madam Susan Edwards for serving as Interim Executive Director for close to two years. “You and your team have done an exceptional job with developing an excellent blueprint on which we will continue to build on.”
She also thanked Rumbidzai Chisenga for planning and implementing the inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum, which has been exceptional and further thanked Allida Black and Lucia Massallee-Yallah for beginning the archival work, which she said is daunting.
With all things considered, the incoming executive director for the presidential foundation further thanked Madam Sirleaf’s office staff for their long hours and dedication; thanked Barkue Tubman-Zawolo (Boss Lady) for the awesome launch logistics; thank Khalil Abou Jaoude for the venue; and thank Big Win Philanthropy through Jamie Cooper.
She also salute Susan Buffett Foundation, Betsey Williams, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and all donors for your continued financial support to the Center; no donation is too small and no donation is too big. Your contributions to the Center are all welcomed.
She finally thanked to the Board of Directors for sage governance. “As I will be reporting to you, my hope is for a cooperatively productive relationship. Thank you everyone for taking the time to be here today. I look forward to a tsunami of support for the Center, and participation and involvement with the Center’s activities and programs,” Dr. added, concluding, “We are today what we did yesterday; we will be tomorrow what we do today” “Amujae” – we are going up”