I commemorated International Women’s Day with other female public leaders at the official launch of the Amujae Initiative, the flagship initiative of The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. The launch took place in Monrovia, Liberia.
I am honored to be a member of the first cohort of ‘Amujae Leaders’, a diverse group of fifteen women from all around Africa – Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, amongst other nations – with outstanding careers in law, government, business, education and activism, who stand united in purpose – service to their countries and advocacy for their fellow women.
The name, Amujae (ä mōō jāēē), means ‘we are going up’ in Kru, a local dialect in Liberia.
As an Amujae Leader I had the unique and invaluable opportunity to learn from and be inspired, challenged and encouraged by our coaches, former President of Liberia HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Malawi HE
Dr. Joyce Banda
and former President of the Central African Republic HE Catherine Samba-Panza. During the second day, further inspiration came from our interactions with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Former Nigerian Minister of Finance and current Chair of GAVI Board) Antoinette Sayeh (newly appointed IMF Deputy Managing Director), Jamie Cooper (Chair and President, Big Win Philanthropy) and other technical experts. HeForShe champion, former President of Nigeria HE Olusegun Obasanjo delivered a motivational speech at the official launch on International Women’s Day (IWD).
We celebrate IWD knowing that a significant increase in the participation of women in all spheres of public and private sector leadership is not an option for the development of Africa, it is an imperative. We cannot continue to under-invest in and under-utilize 50% of our population – the women – and expect development to follow. Practical actions must continue to be taken to keep girls in school and higher education, to reduce teenage pregnancies, to ensure access to business capital for women in both the formal and informal sectors, to provide skills training and employment for women, to stop rape and gender based violence. The above will require policies to not only be developed but to be effectively implemented. Women experience and understand these challenges, so women must be given the space to contribute to the solutions. Our potential for development as a nation will only be fulfilled when the potential of our women is fully harnessed.
#TransformFreetown builds improvements in the lives of women and girls into our priority sector targets. But so much more needs to be done. I am encouraged that women in Freetown and indeed across the continent are determined to stand together to push for change so that our future will be greater than our past.
– Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr