Pres. Sirleaf Nudges Professional Malawian Women to Lead
MONROVIA, Feb 4 (LINA) - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged professional women to realize that there is no turning back for women across Africa and the world, pointing out that the women cannot be stopped now.
“The women of Africa are on the move and there is no turning back. We have the potential to provide leadership for our people and can’t be stopped now,” the Liberian President told the assembly of cheering professional women in Malawi on the second day of her State Visit to that country.
According to a dispatch from Lilongwe, the Liberian leader spoke on Sunday, February 2, when she formally launched the Malawi Professional Women’s Dialogue at the Bingu International Conference Center.
President Sirleaf told the Women’s Dialogue that the pyramid structure which has existed for time immemorial must be broken if the status of women from all backgrounds and spheres is to be transformed.
That pyramid structure, the Liberian leader said, keeps a certain group of women at the top; puts some in the middle, and has a large number at the bottom.
“Once those at the middle and bottom are unable to move upward, and the few at the top begin to decline for various reasons, the status of women will not change,” she said.
She also noted that when a man is forceful in his desire to perform and deliver, he is described as an exertive man, but when a woman behaves similarly, she is described as aggressive.
The Liberian leader urged members of the Malawi Professional Women’s Dialogue not to be deterred by such negative categorization of honest efforts to advance themselves, but to remain firm and focused in their pursuit of positive goals and achievements.
President Sirleaf thanked the women of Malawi and the professional women in particular, for their strong support for President Banda.
“I like to sincerely thank you for your strong support to a leader of Africa and the world; a leader who has the strength, courage, commitment, stamina and the will to keep moving on and is making great progress for Malawi and the continent of Africa,” the first African female President said.
She added: “As I launch this Dialogue, I urge you to join me in truly making it a Dialogue that promotes the issues of women across the board.”
She then invited three members of her official delegation – Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth, and Liberia’s Ambassador to the South African region, Ambassador Lois Brutus, to join a panel of six that commenced the Dialogue.
Speaking earlier, Malawian President Joyce Banda reflected on a Biblical story from the book of Esther, comparing that story with President Sirleaf as a leader chosen by God himself as Liberia’s and Africa’s first female President.
She said the Liberian President has proven to be not just a leader of the African people, but of the world with roles on the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda; winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the American Medal of Freedom Award and the many international recognitions, achievements and assignments directed to her.
She told the Malawi Professional Women’s Dialogue that during her political dark days, President Sirleaf was the sister she could count on, adding that the Liberian leader’s support and advice saw her through the tough struggle and battle that had landed her as the leader of the Malawian people.
President Banda reiterated that President Sirleaf is, and remains, her “true role model and mentor”, and thanked her for the support.
President Banda told the women that when a group of women organized and met in Ghana to discuss and seek solutions to the problem she faced, President Sirleaf was there personally to meet with her and to express support.
To the surprise of many, President Banda told the gathering of women that when she was named “The Most Powerful Woman in Africa for 2012,” it was found out later that it was President Sirleaf who actually nominated her for the award.
“This is, indeed, the mark of a selfless and kind-hearted woman. She did not feel fulfilled based on her personal achievement, but was always concerned about the advancement of women, and in particular the African women.
President Banda urged women to support each other and stop the undermining and down-pulling, adding that with President Sirleaf’s support, Africa now has three female Presidents, while a female heads the African Union Commission.
“More women can get there, but we must hold together and support ourselves. We must know that Africa and the world desire more women leaders for it brings results,” she pointed out.
President Banda thanked the Liberian leader for visiting Malawi and for participating in the launch of the Malawi Professional Women’s Dialogue.
In brief remarks, the Deputy Governor for the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Dr. Naomi Ngwira, who spoke on behalf of the Professional Women in Malawi, observed that both men and women don’t like professional women, and reminded them that good governance and women’s empowerment are simultaneous equations and are inseparable.
She said that the Dialogue should focus on how to advance the cause of professional women in Malawi and elsewhere, reflect on the challenges they face, and on what can be done to address them.