MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has opened the third strategic steering meeting of the African Womenâ€™s Leadership Network in Monrovia. The ALWN platform seeks to enhance the leadership role of African women in the continentâ€™s transformation.
With support from the African Union and U.N. Women Liberia, the event brought together women leaders from across the continent. Some include the A.U. Special Envoy for Women, Peace, and Security, Bineta Diop; the U.N. Women Liberia country representative, Marie Goreth Nizigama; the head of the A.U. Liaison Office in Liberia, Ibrahim Kamara; and the deputy minister for administration at the Ministry of Gender, Parleh Harris.
In her opening remarks, Sirleaf said while much time has been spent on creating awareness about democracy, much was still required to be done, such as the building of institutions that go beyond personality.
She challenged the women who are afraid of competing for elected positions to use their faith to overcome those fears.
â€œYour faith has to overcome your fears. Step up, take charge, be different, be committed, and claim it. If you want leadership, you have to work for it, do it and be it,â€ she said.
â€œIt takes a parliament that you can well rely on to put national interest above self-interest; it takes a judiciary that is committed to the rule of law and it takes women to be recognized in society.â€
She challenged women to do their best for democracy, noting that one cannot take leadership unless he or she is ready to work and willing to stand up for leadership.
â€œIndeed, while initial discussions on women leadership were guided by limited progress in political governance, peace, and security, AWLN has adopted a comprehensive approach, looking at enhancing women leadership from grassroots to the top, and ensuring a true translation of Aspiration 6 of Africa Agenda 2063 that puts women and youth at the Centre of Africaâ€™s transformation,â€ Sirleaf added.
The former Liberian leader and the first woman to be elected president on the continent also explained the necessity of promoting leadership among young women, women in rural communities, and womenâ€™s access to capital and entrepreneurship.
She challenged members of the women leadersâ€™ network on the continent to renew their commitment and work in synergy to advance an inclusive transformative agenda for the continent through actions that will impact the lives of women and youths.
â€œThe various pillars of AWLN must define flagship projects, develop their roadmap and ways to measure regularly delivery, assess challenges, and design innovative solutions,â€ she said.
For her part, Diop, the A.U. special envoy for women, peace, and security, said though the network was still in its young stage, members are taking concrete actions and have made strides that enhance the delivery on its call to action that was announced in 2017 at the launch of the network.
She said following the launch, a joint solidarity mission was conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by Northern Nigeria, under the leadership of AWLN pioneer member and U.N. deputy secretary general, Amina Mohammed; under-secretary-general and U.N. Women executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and Pramila Patten, the under-secretary-general and special representative on sexual violence, and other senior U.N. Women leaders.
She said the network undertook another joint U.N.-A.U. solidarity mission last year to South Sudan, the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel region, which enabled the delegations to assess the nature, relevance, and ability of the operations by member states and partners to address the needs of the communities, particularly women and girls, affected by conflict.
She said the network has also invited women leaders from visited grassroots communities to address the U.N. Security Council and the A.U. Peace and Security Committee on the need for an approach that enhances peace and security as part of their endeavor to ensure that womenâ€™s voices are heard much clear.
The U.N. Women country representative, Nizigama, called on the women leaders to lend their voices and support to the quest of Liberian women in achieving greater participation in leadership and decision making in the country.
She said the current low level of women participation in government is alarming and recommended urgent action to address the emergency.
â€œI implore you to continue this laudable initiative to build solidarity across the continent to strengthen womenâ€™s leadership and participation in decision making,â€ she said.
At the same time, the special representative of the A.U. chairperson to Liberia, Ibraham Kamara, underscored the need to change the status quo by changing the minds, hearts, attitudes of Africans and speaking against stereotyping. Kamara said that can only be achieved when womenâ€™s participation and representation in government and decision making at all levels and all sectors of the economy are accepted.
â€œWe hope that the initiative of empowering women and girls to become future leaders in the continent will succeed,â€ he said.
Featured photo by Mafanta Kromah