President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

2006 Africa Prize Laureate

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H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia and the first woman ever to be elected as president of an African nation, received the 2006 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger.The Prize, which includes a cash award to further the laureate's work for the well being of the people of Africa, was presented at a gala award ceremony on October 21 at the New York Hilton Hotel.

Joan Holmes praised the commitment of President Sirleaf to the empowerment of women, and to rebuilding her nation following 14 years of devastating civil war. Citing the enormous destruction of that war, Ms. Holmes said "Can you imagine the courage it would take, the vision it would take, and the belief in the goodness and resilience of people it would take to lead a country with this amount of devastation? We have always said that we award the Africa Prize to leaders who exhibit courage, vision and the commitment to the well-being of Africa’s people. This statement has never been more true than in the case of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf."

“I am indeed extremely honored to have been nominated and to join the ranks of the sterling group of persons who have received this award,” wrote President Sirleaf. “I will accept this award in person at the event scheduled for Saturday, October 21, in New York, and I will do so on behalf of the thousands of market women of Liberia who made great sacrifices during both war and peace to ensure that our nation is fed. This cash award will be needed to support the program of the NGO which I sponsor, Measuagoon, whose prime activities are to improve the working conditions of our market women.”

Information on President Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a development expert–the former head of UNDP’s Africa Bureau, who has also held senior positions with the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank. She is a highly respected economist who held top posts with Citibank and the Equator Bank.

Upon taking office on January 16, 2006, President Sirleaf immediately launched The “First 150 Days Action Plan” to start rebuilding the nation after 14 years of Civil War. The Plan is based on four pillars:

  • Expanding peace and security,
  • Revitalizing economic activity,
  • Rebuilding infrastructure and providing basic services, and
  • Strengthening governance and the rule of law.

Within days of taking office, she began fulfilling her pledge to fight corruption by firing 12 top officials in the Finance Ministry. These and other efforts resulted in increasing first quarter government revenues by 34%.

To heal the wounds of the long civil war, her government officially launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

She declared that “the education of girls is to become a cornerstone of development in Liberia” and launched Liberia's National Girl’s Education Policy, which will:

  • provide free and compulsory primary schools for every Liberian child
  • recruit and train more female teachers
  • offer life skills training at schools to raise self-esteem so that girls can say no to sexual abuse
  • and increase the availability of scholarships for girls.

Throughout her election campaign, she stated that her victory would encourage women across Africa to seek high political office. Within her own administration, President Sirleaf has appointed women into high-ranking positions and into the top bracket of ministers, including the first female head of police and the first woman Justice Minister and Attorney General.

She has stated that: “Because I represent the aspirations of women all over Africa, I must succeed for them.  I must keep the door open for women’s participation in politics at the highest level.  That is both humbling and exciting.”