Monrovia: It would be a mistake to think democracy’s entry into Africa has fully dissipated the patriarchal system, or has done away with what others call “dinosaur politics” where leaders clinch to power until death do them part. Across the continent, ‘political dinosaurs’ are still commonplace and there are still scorns and hate for calls seeking women to top leadership positions. No one keenly, closely follows the lingering trend than Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who once broke the glass ceiling and became Liberia’s and Africa’s first female president. She still thinks her heroic breakthrough is that enough because the parochial status quo of Africa is still viciously intact, well and kicking, and that except the status quo is thoroughly dismantled with sustained radical actions to give young people and women a space, Africa’s democracy, development and peace are doom. The Analyst reports.
Liberia’s former head of state and President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is rallying the people of Africa to disrupt the current status quo which is bent on perpetuating itself to political and economic power at the disadvantage of women and young people.
The ex-Liberian leader observed that there are millions of young people who have had the fortune to receive good education, many with the creativity and ingenuity as they break through with technological skills to bring our countries into the digital age as the pathway to propel the changes that our countries need for the competition required for today’s world but are hardly given attention, space and impetus to leverage their potentials.
Delivering the keynote address at a symposium and 60th birthday celebration in honor of UN Deputy Secretary Madam Amina Mohamed, held in Abuja, Nigeria, last week, Madam Sirleaf noted young Africans are prepared and able to lead.
She said Africa’s youth represents the largest percentage of young people in the world at a time when there is aging in many of the older and more developed countries.
“The world will recognize that Africa will be needed to propel the world through our skills for which we have paid the price of underdevelopment,” former President Sirleaf asserted, but stressed that “to achieve this African leader, and those long in power will have to come to the realization that change is at hand.”
She said there comes a time where one must support and encourage generational change, enabling our young people to take the leadership that they deserve and that we have prepared them for.
Apparently speaking to Africa’s ‘political dinosaurs’, Madam Sirleaf said: “There comes a time when one must let go. There is no guarantee of the expected success when one takes such action but that cannot be the excuse to hold back this required process of change because the majority of our youths are ready, able, and possess the integrity and commitment to move Africa towards the achievements of its aspirations.”
Reflecting on the exemplary leadership of the late Madiba, President Nelson Mandela, Madam Sirleaf recalled his words when he “reminded us that our work is far from over, that there is much that remains to be done in the fight against injustice, for a better distribution of the benefits of economic growth, for opportunities to be made equal, to enable more Africans to rise above poverty, that many more must have access to health, shelter and education, to never forget the thousands of people, primarily women and children, who continue to die from assault, abuse and hunger.”
The former Liberian leader, who is currently World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador, said to achieve those dreams and objectives of Nelson Mandela requires a disruption of the status quo, not gentle nudges.
“It requires bold action on the part of all African leaders.”
Women’s Leadership Marginalization
As the occasion on which she keynoted was in honor of a progressive women, UN Deputy Secretary Madam Amina Mohamed, the former Liberian president paid tribute to women, particularly the celebrant and with lamentations on the marginalization of women and girls in Africa.
She said: “We are here to celebrate the 60th birthday of Amina Mohamed an acclaimed leader – I call her my junior sister and today we recognize this extraordinary African woman who is a global leader. I got to know Amina during the process of the work of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She served as the Special Advisor to then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and was pivotal in the robust global consultation that resulted in the seventeen goals. I recall her strong voice for the recognition of the interlinking of the goals as the means for success and for a people focus with gender equity and equality at the core.”
The African first female president described Amina a is a force of nature but also a consensus builder.
“It is very difficult and usually unnecessary to disagree with her! She brings ideas to the table with clarity and energy, propelling others as they see new possibilities of which they had never thought,” Madam Sirleaf extolled the celebrant.
“I am very proud of Amina and know you are also – she plays a critical role in our premiere global institution, the United Nations. Secretary General Guterres has recognized Amina’s talents by asking her to remain as his Deputy for a second term. The speed and ease with which he has been re-elected must be credited, in some measure, to the recognition by member states that this is a winning team!”
But the former Liberian president noted that while it is true that Amina is “our star but she, like me, and other women leaders of the world have been subjected to the same barriers, the stereotyping, the same denials of access.”
“Our goal is common, the ascendency of women to top leadership positions at every level of society. We know that women must themselves work for this in collective effort to achieve this common goal that they must go beyond the fears of dirty politics and be prepared to challenge any attempt to discredit their efforts for a rightful claim to their role in society.”
She added that the issue of gender equality will continue to be a litmus test of African countries and societies, as it is hard to understand why, with all the evidence at hand that ending violence against women, ensuring their education, and promoting their participation and voice in national decision making are the yeast and flour in the bread of development; that there is still such disparity and inequality in power and rights between women and men.
In Nigeria, a country to whom many look for leadership, there has never been even a woman Governor, the office of authority at the local level which speaks to the acceptance of women leadership that has been rightfully earned, Madam Sirleaf observed.
“I understand there have been several deputy governors but when will we see the first full governor in Nigeria? What will it require and when to have a second elected woman President in Africa?”
Former President Sirleaf said, “The support by men, who must recognize the capabilities and contributions of women to sustained development and to the peace and security of nations. Those of you brothers, fathers, and sons in this room please hear me, for your wives and your sisters and your daughters, who have all those rights of which I have spoken.”