Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first freely elected female president of Liberia, and of many African nation beginning in 2005 at the age of 67. She was a popular president, not just because she was the first female president of the continent, but because her policies were effective, and they improved the lives of the citizens of Liberia.
In August 1985, She was placed under house arrest because she campaigned against Samuel Doe, who was the president at the time. She was sentenced to ten years in prison, but she was allowed to leave the country as an exile by September of the same year.
In 2011, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work. She was the second African woman in to win a Nobel Peace Prize, after the previous one passed away.
In 2006, She vowed to make reduction of the national debt. At the time, Liberia had approximately US $4.9 billion of debt, which was about seven times the country’s annual national income. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf negotiated until the United States became the first country to grant debt relief to Liberia. In 2010, Liberia met the completion point of the HIPC, and made the country free from its entire external debt.
After she gained debt relief for the country, she could focus and spend more money on education for children. She launched a girls’ education national policy on 18 April 2006. Girls could have free and compulsory primary school and reduced secondary school fees by 50%. Female teachers were important, as they could understand girls better, so female teachers were trained more. Since abusing students by teachers often happened. Sirleaf made punishment, for teachers who committed sexual abuse and assault of students more severe, and their impunity would be ended. At the same time, School offered life skills to raise the self-esteem for girls, so they could resist sexual abuses.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf studied economics in the United States. She moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1981, and served as a vice president of the African Regional Office of Citibank. While she was serving as the president of the country, she had improved the Liberian economy from a negative growth, which was caused by civil wars, to a rate of more than 8.7% in 2013.
During the civil wars, it was estimated around 70% of women were sexually assaulted. But after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power, she brought in new legislation to widen the definition of rape. The UN found only 2% of reported rape and sexual violence cases in 2015. She had also inspired other women to enter politics. In 2017, 16% of house of representatives candidates were female. It was the highest proportion in history of Liberia.
October 2017, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stepped down from being president after two six-year terms. It surprised a lot of people, because this doesn’t usually happen in Africa. After she has brought so much to the people of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf deserves all her awards and a rest.