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Meet our Ibrahim Prize Laureates – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The Ibrahim Leadership Prize for Achievement in African Leadership celebrates excellence. It is awarded to a former Executive Head of State or Government by an independent Prize Committee composed of eminent figures.

Since its inception in 2007, the Ibrahim Prize has been awarded to six Laureates from across Africa. Through their work, these Laureates are continuously contributing to the transformation of the continent. We are spotlighting some of their stories.

What have you been involved with since winning the Prize?

My goal post-presidency is to share my life’s experiences with the hope that they empower women in Africa and around the world. My chief initiative is the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development based in Liberia, which was officially launched on 8 March 2020. The goal of the Center is to create a place of collaboration and mentorship, where women and girls from Africa and the world will receive life skills training and support to be more involved in political processes and leadership roles.

What would your message be for encouraging women and girls across Africa to step up to leadership positions?

Identify your goals, document them, measure and record progress, stay focussed, stay determined. Exceed your expectations. Exceed everyone’s expectations!

How useful is the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) in informing the Prize?

The IIAG is invaluable; it defines effective leadership by the improvement that a leader has on the lives of his or her people – improvements that can be measured and validated. The IIAG is a comprehensive tool that looks at multiple aspects of governance, such as including women in leadership, integration of youths into the political process, or spending on social programmes. This holistic approach also helps inform the Prize.

Africa is increasingly becoming a key player on the global stage; how can the continent harness the opportunities this presents?

Africa can harness its opportunities by investing in and empowering its own people, particularly women and youth. African nations must fully embrace the potential and power of women, youths and the marginalised by fully including them in leadership positions, political dialogue, and the formal economy. Not doing so is like fighting with one hand behind our back.