Two days before January's swearing-in of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first female head of state – more than 250 women met in Monrovia to discuss the role of women in African politics, business and economics.
"Women are gathering from all over the world to celebrate and share collectively in this victory. This is not only a victory for the women of Liberia but a victory for women all over Africa,” said President Johnson Sirleaf shortly before her inauguration. "I intend to ensure that my government will fulfill its promise to the Liberian people and make a good first impression that all women can be proud of."
The keynote address at the conference, titled Women Uniting for Change: In Unity, There is Strength, was delivered by Elizabeth Rehn, former Minister of Defense for Finland. Representatives from governments, NGOs, political parties, business, religious groups, and regional organizations, such as Gertrude Mongella President of the Pan-African Parliament, met and discussed women’s political participation and leadership, their roles in peace and security and the reproductive health and rights of women in Africa.
For the first time, this conference provided an opportunity for women from all over the world to convene in Liberia,” said Vabah Gayflor, Liberia’s Minister of Gender and Development, and co-sponsor of the event with NDI. “It is truly an honor for us and we hope that the interaction between the Liberian women and their counterparts from all over the world was an enriching experience,” she added.
"We believe the conference helped create the conditions for substantive initiatives for women in Africa to emerge,” says NDI Senior Program Manager of Women’s Programs Kristin Haffert. “The election of President Johnson Sirleaf adds new voice to the principles of the Win With Women Global Initiative we’ve been involved with for the past few years.” Win With Women offers recommendations for advancing women’s political participation in individual countries. It was developed in 2003 by women leaders from around the world, and has since been applied in over 25 countries. It was made available to all participants at the conference.
Published on April 6, 2006