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EJS Center / News / Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discusses Amujae Initiative on BBC Newsday

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discusses Amujae Initiative on BBC Newsday

This week, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf joined host Clare McDonnell on BBC’s Newsday to discuss the announcement of the 2021 Amujae Leaders, the second cohort of accomplished African women taking part in the EJS Center’s flagship program, the Amujae Initiative

Speaking about the recent induction for the 2021 Amujae Leaders, Madam Sirleaf celebrated introducing “to the world these fifteen dynamic women from eleven African countries,” who are all in the advanced stages of pursuing their leadership goals. Madam Sirleaf noted the pride she holds for both the inaugural and 2021 cohorts of Amujae Leaders, as each woman progresses on her leadership journey despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Madam Sirleaf also highlighted the contributions made by the Amujae Coaches—African women who have reached the highest levels of public leadership who provide advice and guidance to the Amujae Leaders. In particular, she noted the crucial roles played by Amujae Coaches Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is on the cusp of becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the nominee for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), and former President of Malawi Dr. Joyce Banda. Summarizing the first year of the Amujae Initiative’s programming, Madam Sirleaf noted: “It’s taken off beyond our expectations, and so we’re very pleased.”

Clare McDonnell, the host of Newsday, highlighted how the program unites accomplished women who have excelled in their respective fields, whether that be refugee rights, gender equality, or youth empowerment. Ms. McDonnell acknowledged, however, that ensuring women are elected into public leadership positions is only half the battle. Once elected, women leaders—even those in the highest echelons of public leadership—face many barriers that limit their ability to bring about positive change. In agreement, Madam Sirleaf said:

“[There is a] systemic variance that continues to keep women from reaching the highest pinnacle [in] their [fields]. We have to keep challenging it; we have to keep working together. We must also bring men into [the conversation]; recognizing the role that women play, the contribution[s] of women to development, and what women have demonstrated [as leaders around the world].” 

Madam Sirleaf concluded the interview by highlighting how women leaders have excelled in public leadership and have protected and strengthened their communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Just look at the COVID-19 [pandemic]: it has been strong women leaders that have really managed the transmission, have really gone right out [to] the frontline and taken action to be able to control this virus.”

You can listen to the program here. Madam Sirleaf’s interview begins at 45:54.