Source: The New Dawn

Women leaders from across the African continent have concluded a three-day gathering of Amujae’s second leadership forum convened in Monrovia by the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center), vowing to change the landscape for women in public leadership.

During the forum which climaxed Sunday, 31 October 2021, Amujae Leaders shared their strategies for building resilience and encouraged each other to persevere in pursuing their goals.

In the press conference that followed the climax of the forum on Sunday, Liberia’s former President Mrs. Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf addressed the media alongside former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and now EJS Presidential Foundation Board Chair Amb. Deborah Malac; and EJS Presidential Center Executive Director Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks.

Sharing the platform with Mrs. Sirleaf also were Madam Yawa Hansen -Quao, a 2020 Amujae Leader from Ghana; Madam Fatoumatta Njai, 2021 Amujae Leader from The Gambia; Umra Omar, 2021 Amujae Leader from Kenya and Ghada Labib, 2021 Amujae Leader from Egypt.

Mrs. Sirleaf reflected during the press conference saying, when she accepted the Mo Ibrahim prize for leadership in April 2019 she committed that she would do what she could to promote women to leadership.

“And since that time, a year later we were able to establish the Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf for Women and Development,” Mrs. Sirleaf said.

She explained that the institution and mission are to promote women who have already committed themselves to leadership and achieved a certain level of leadership and to help them to ascend to higher positions in leadership.

She cited certain values that come with women’s leadership which include respect for human rights and ensuring full equality and equity in the world.

She noted that based on their resources, they have decided to increase the number of women annually, announcing a target of 50 women a year.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and now EJS Presidential Foundation Board Chair Amb. Deborah Malac said seeing the EJS Center’s vision come to light and creating women leaders not just from Liberia or West Africa, but across the continent, is something that is very exciting and absolutely necessary.

The former U.S. top diplomat who ended her tour of duty to Liberia in December 2015 said she had the privilege over the last few years to see firsthand the type of inspiration or impact that former President Sirleaf has on women in Liberia.

Amb. Malac said it was a wonderful opportunity being back in Liberia which she considers her second home.

As Board Chair of the EJS Presidential Foundation in the U.S., Amb. Malac said they have set up to support whatever way they can to ensure that this vision does not die.

Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, EJS Presidential Center Executive Director, explained that the mission of the Center is to support women who are already leaders in their own way and are on their way up.

Cognizant that in any journey there are going to be obstacles along the way, Dr. Weeks said the Center is there to provide women the support, mentoring, and coaching to ensure that they achieve their goals.

“We also are there to challenge barriers that prevent women from getting to where they’re supposed to go. So we’re there to support and we’re there to challenge, that’s our mission,” said Dr. Weeks.

Additionally, she said the vision for the mission is that when they provide this kind of support, there will be more women in leadership and more voices that represent both men and women and are able to address issues that affect both genders.

Currently, Dr. Weeks said, the Center has representatives in Amujae in the five African regions representing 16 countries, and that there are 30 Amujae Leaders.

She said another plan is to build a Presidential Center that also includes a library, executive hall, conference or convening space, and also exhibits and archives of former President Sirleaf of both her personal and presidential journeys.

Further, Dr. Weeks said a very important and strategic aspect of the plan is communications and research which aims to ensure that there is correct information out there about women.

Madam Yawa Hansen -Quao, a 2020 Amujae Leader from Ghana said being a part of Amujae program is an emerging experience for her personally and professionally, saying she has been able to learn from all of the distinguished women leaders through all the interactions they held virtually during COVID-19 and beyond.

She expressed appreciation to the entire team of the Center for bringing together all of the distinguished leaders, saying it has designed a holistic intervention that is focused on what they will do and who they will be.

Madam Fatoumatta Njai, 2021 Amujae Leader from The Gambia, recounted the rigorous process she faced to get selected like other Amujae Leaders, thanking the EJS Presidential Center for giving her the opportunity through the Amujae Leadership to share experiences with other leaders and learn from each other.

Madam Umra Omar, 2021 Amujae Leader from Kenya, and Madam Ghada Labib, 2021 Amujae Leader from Egypt, in separate statements, expressed humble appreciations to sit with Africa’s first female elected president and other fellow leaders in the Amujae Forum.

The Amujae Initiative is the EJS Center’s flagship program which prepares women to excel in the highest echelons of public leadership and bring other women along.

Drawn from a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds, the Amujae Leaders include members of parliament, a governor, a mayor, and several government ministers from 16 countries across Africa.

They were selected through a rigorous application process from hundreds of applicants and they each have a track record of demonstrable achievements in public life and a drive to uplift African women and girls.

This year’s forum was the first gathering of Amujae Leaders since the official launch on March 8, 2020, on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focused on the theme “Building Resilience,” the forum aimed to equip the Amujae Leaders with the tools to continue their leadership journeys through uncertain times and support their respective countries in rebuilding following COVID-19.


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