NDI honored Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to lead an African nation, with the 2007 W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award for her courageous leadership in Liberia and distinguished role in encouraging women’s participation in the democratic process. A tireless campaigner for reconciliation, justice and democratic rule, President Johnson Sirleaf has set her country on the road to political and economic recovery. In its efforts to rebuild a shattered infrastructure in partnership with the international community, Liberia’s new democratic government has begun the long road to improving the lives of citizens through greater access to clean water, electricity and roads.
Internationally known as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of peace, justice and democratic rule. She grew up in the Liberian capital of Monrovia where she married and had four sons.
President Johnson Sirleaf later moved to the United States where she earned an accounting degree from the Madison College of Business and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
In her efforts to bring justice to her people in Liberia, she has spent more than a year in jail at the hands of the military dictatorship of General Samuel Doe and had her life threatened by former President Charles Taylor. She campaigned relentlessly for Taylor’s removal from office and played an active and supportive role in the Transitional Government of Liberia as the country prepared for elections in October of 2005.
President Johnson Sirleaf was a presidential candidate in the 1997 Liberia general election where she finished second in the field of 13. Before that, she served for five years as Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Program as Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Project for Africa.
She served as the Chairperson of the Governance Reform Commission of the National Transitional Government of Liberia until she resigned in March 2004 to accept the nomination of the Unity Party of Liberia as its Standard Bearer.
In November 2005, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia and became the first woman to lead an African nation. The Harvard educated and former World Bank economist defeated popular World Class soccer star George Weah with an impressive 59.4 percent of the vote.
President Johnson Sirleaf has served as Governor representing her Liberia for several financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and the World Bank. In the later capacity, she was chair and spokeswoman of the African Caucus for the 1979 Annual Meeting.