sassysage's Blog

Crowning a Queen: Politics not As Usual

Posted on: February 20, 2011

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There are so many amazing women and girls who are doing great things. So each month, I’m giving props to ladies who are making it happen. This month in honor of President’s Day our queen is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia.   Read about her determination and history making rise as the first African female president… 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th President of Liberia and the first elected female Head of State in Africa. In 2010, Newsweek magazine listed her as one of the ten best leaders in the world and Time placed her among the top ten female leaders.

 

Born Ellen Euphemia Johnson in Monrovia on October 29, 1938, she  grew up in Liberia and attended high school at the College of West Africa in Monrovia, subsequently studying at Madison Business College, the University of Colorado and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 1971.   

In 1965, she joined the then Treasury Department in Liberia and was appointed Minister of Finance in 1979 where she introduced measures to curb the mismanagement of government finances. After the military coup d’état of 1980, Johnson Sirleaf served as President of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) but fled Liberia and the increasingly suppressive military government that same year. She traveled to Kenya and served as Vice President of CITICORP’s Africa Regional Office in Nairobi, and later moved to Washington, D.C. to assume the position of Senior Loan Officer at the World Bank, and 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.

In 2003 when Charles Taylor was exiled to Nigeria and the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) was formed, Johnson Sirleaf was selected to serve as Chairperson of the Governance Reform Commission. She resigned this position to successfully contest the 2005 Presidential elections, resulting in her historic inauguration, on January 16, 2006, as President of Liberia.

After decades of fighting for freedom, justice and equality in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has spent more than four years rebuilding post-conflict Liberia. She has revived national hope by strengthening the institutions of national security and good governance, leading the revitalization of the national economy and infrastructure and restoring Liberia’s international reputation and credibility. 

She has received numerous prestigious awards among them: the FAO CERES Medal (2008); the Crisis Group Fred Cuny Award for the Prevention of Deadly Crisis (2008) for outstanding leadership in democracy, development and peace building in Africa; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2007), the highest civilian honor bestowed by an American president. She has also received Honorary Doctorate degrees from fourteen universities in the United States and Africa. President Johnson Sirleaf has written widely on financial, development and human rights issues, and in 2008 she published her critically acclaimed memoir, “This Child Will Be Great”.  She is the proud mother of four sons and grandmother of eleven. 

excerpted from The Executive Mansion

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