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EJS Center / News / Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Amujae Leader Oley Dibba-Wadda discuss women’s leadership in the era of COVID-19

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Amujae Leader Oley Dibba-Wadda discuss women’s leadership in the era of COVID-19

On 9 November, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Amujae Leader Oley Dibba-Wadda took part in a High Level Panel on African Women’s Political Leadership. Co-convened by the EJS Center, Fundación Mujeres por África (The Women for Africa Foundation), and the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, the panel provided space for an important conversation on “women’s power and good governance in the era of COVID-19”.

As the first panelist to speak, Madam Sirleaf kicked off the discussion by acknowledging a meaningful milestone for women leaders worldwide:

“On Saturday, the world experienced a historic event—the election of the first woman Vice President of the United States of America. And I think all women leaders everywhere, for all the work they have done to enhance women’s leadership, can be very proud of that.”

Madam Sirleaf then went on to talk about how building a journey in public leadership can be a long-lasting commitment, highlighting that inspiring other women to follow the same path has always been her main motivation: 

“One never stops [one’s] leadership journey with election. You start your leadership journey from down there, from the base, when you try to become an activist, you take positions, you take leadership, wherever you are, whether you are in the school room, or whether you are in your church, or whether you are in your community, and you begin to stand out and make a difference… At my age, I might say it took me well over thirty years to get to where I landed, but it is always because of the inspiration of knowing that, if you get there, you provide a major motivating force for women.”

Following Madam Sirleaf’s remarks, Ms. Dibba-Wadda talked about her own journey in leadership, which has recently led her to return to her home country of the Gambia and start building a path in public service:

“I always used to say that I am not a politician and that I was a technocrat, but then having come home I realized that if I knew what I know, I would have engaged in politics a long time ago, because I feel that the only way one can really influence the change we want to see is to engage in politics, especially at the highest level.”

Alongside Madam Sirleaf and Ms. Dibba-Wadda were María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, former Vice President of Spain and President of Fundación Mujeres por África; Catherine Samba-Panza, former President of the Central African Republic and current candidate for the country’s presidency in the December 2020 election; Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President Emeritus, Republic of Malta; Makale Traoré, candidate for the presidency in the October 2020 election in Guinea; Brigitte Dzogbenuku, candidate for the presidency in the December 2020 election in Ghana; Marie-Sylvie Hervo-Akendengué, candidate for the presidency in the 2023 election in Gabon; and moderator Dr. Amany Asfour, International President of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.  

Watch the full panel below: