Source: The Citizen
Last week’s visit by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia brought both inspiration for Tanzanian women and for African development.

During her visit to Tanzania, people of various cadres were eager to hear from her as media coverage paid a great focus on her following the three-day state visit.

Some female lecturers at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), where President Johnson-Sirleaf gave a lecture on the role of Women in African Development, said they were indeed inspired by her as a female president.

When giving a vote of thanks on behalf of female lecturers at the UDSM, Dr Rose Mwaipopo, who is an acting director for gender, described Ms Johnson-Sirleaf as one of the best presidents in Africa and a great role model for women.  

They cited her as an icon for the women’s struggles to hold high posts in government leadership.

Former UN deputy secretary general Asha-Rose Migiro, who also attended the Symposium held at the Nkrumah Hall, called for regular debate on matters relating to the role of women in development as part of inspiring the country’s women to believe in their abilities as leaders.

“Having Ms Johnson-Sirleaf in this kind of symposium brings inspiration and thus I urge the country to develop a tendency of having these forums by hosting successful women within the country to inspire others,” she said.

Ms Johnson-Sirleaf is the 24th president of Liberia and the first elected female Head of State in Africa. She is serving her second term as President after winning the 2011 presidential election.

She is also one of the three Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of 2011. President Sirleaf throughout her career has demonstrated passionate commitment to hard work, integrity and good governance, advocating for the rights of women and the importance of education in providing a better future for her country and its people.

Her entry into politics came in 1972 when she delivered her now famous commencement address to her high school alma mater in which she sharply criticized the government, showing her determination to speak truth.

This was the start of a distinguished professional and her political career spanning nearly four decades.

Speaking over Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at UDSM, President Sirleaf said the programme was helpful because it posed as a tool for challenging African countries to reach certain development targets.

She noted that the MDGs were largely having a positive impact on women’s welfare because each target touched matters that affect them.

“As we speak of poverty, out of all people living in poverty in developing countries, 70 per cent are women,” she said.

From this fact, she said, women required more representation in leadership to ensure that they decide on matters affecting their lives.

“There is a need for a critical mass of women in decision-making bodies to make a difference,” she remarked.

However, she noted that the continent had achieved in part of each target of the MDGs and it was on the right track as the 2015 deadline approaches.

For instance, she said, many countries have so far made achievements in the universal access to education and reduced child mortality targets.

She added that the African countries had also improved maternal mortality, but called on more efforts to achieve the goal by the 2015.

She said progress was also good in the fight against HIV/Aids as the disease has been so far reduced by 50 per cent. Tuberculosis prevalence rates have been cut down too, she said.

However, she acknowledged that corruption was one of the major setbacks in achieving the MDGs in Africa continent.

“There is no doubt that corruption has undermined progress in African countries,” she stressed.

President Sirleaf also urged African countries to increase allocation of domestic resources towards efforts to combat malaria if they wished to attain the MDGs on the disease.

She commended the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (Alma), saying it deserved to halt malaria by 2015 as the Millennium MDGs directs.

Ms Sirleaf took over the chairmanship of the Alma after President Jakaya Kikwete, the founding chair of the Alliance.

The Alma was founded in September 2009 by African Heads of State and government to utilise their individual and collective power across countries and regional borders in the fight against malaria.

The Alliance is comprised of 44 African heads of state and the African Union working together to end malaria-related deaths on the continent.

As she also launched offices for Alma offices in Dar es Salaam, the Alliance looks forward to accelerate the achievement of its objectives.

The executive director of the Alma, Ms Johannah-Joy Phumaphi, said the office would provide a focal point of contact for all communication with countries and partners on the continent, complementing the virtual office comprising stations in East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa and support to the Steering Committee for Africa’s ambassadors to the UN in New York.



President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia visits a mosquito net plant in Tanzania.

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