ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

EllenJohnsonSirleaf

As a rising politician in Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, became known for her steadfast integrity. She clashed so hard with heads of state that she was imprisoned twice and nearly executed.

During her 2005 campaign for president, it became clear that a dishearteningly low percentage of Liberia’s women were registered to vote. Market women had to run their businesses and care for children - they didn’t have time to go to rallies like the men.  Etweda “Sugars” Cooper (chair of the Liberian Women’s Initiative and another BAB) made the rounds - arranging for babysitters and watching market stalls to that women could register to vote. By the time the election came around, 51% of registered voters in Liberia were women. The market women went door to door rallying support, passing out t-shirts, traveling from town to town chanting “Vote for Woman!” 900,000 women showed up to vote on election day, some sleeping on the ground outside the polling stations the night before, walking for miles with babies strapped to their backs, whatever it took. And their efforts paid off when they successfully elected a 67-year-old grandmother over her opponent, a soccer champ who had been named FIFA World Player of the Year, making Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first woman elected president of an African country.

Johnson Sirleaf immediately established a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to fight corruption and heal ethnic tensions. By 2010, she had erased Liberia’s entire debt and she had secured millions of dollars of foreign investment. She ran again in 2011 and won, and is still the president of Liberia today.  Oh, and in 2011 she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to further women’s rights. No big deal. ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF FOR THE LITERAL WIN. NEVER STOP FIGHTING.

“All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things.”

- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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