Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

by Rebecca Miller

"During the years of our civil war, they [women] bore the brunt of inhumanity and terror... Yet, it is the women who laboured and advocated for peace throughout our region."
~Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (

Healing her nation and setting it on the right track is what drives Ellen Johnson Sirleaf each day.

Born in Monrovia, Liberia, she has deep tribal roots as well as familiarity with the West through her later childhood with her foster family. Her education began at the College of West Africa, Monrovia, and culminated in a Master's degree at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her education and training in banking, economic and financial management gained her a trusted position as Minister of Finance of Liberia in 1979.

Unfortunately, Johnson Sirleaf's high standards and desire to improve Liberia led her to clash with the corruption and rivalry at the time. A ten year sentence under house arrest was followed by another position and then by a fortunate escape into exile. This was a turbulent and painful time in Liberia's history. The frequent power struggles resulted in two tragic civil wars. (1989-1996 and 1999-2003)

Astonishingly, the civil war was brought to a sudden end by Liberia's most voiceless population - its women, following their courageous stand in 2003.

Women's Peace Movement of Liberia (
Women's Peace Movement of Liberia (

The Women's Peace Movement of Liberia was a faith-based group of Christians and Muslims, started by Leymah Gbowee and Comfort Freeman, that drew such support from the population that it led to the transition of power from a brutal president, Charles Taylor, to a transitional government that would provide for a new election.

Liberia was ready for peace.

The citizens of Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005. When she took office in 2006, she had high hopes for Liberia's future - and she knew that the future must start with the children, with particular attention to its population of girls and women. In 2003, it was determined that nine out of ten women in Liberia were illiterate. President Johnson-Sirleaf is determined to change that.

President Johnson Sirleaf and fans (
President Johnson Sirleaf and fans (

Her administration has identified Peace and Security as one of the four pillars in support of the nation's development.

The year 2009 was the first time that six-year-olds have entered first grade without having seen war in their lifetimes. President Johnson Sirleaf said:

“Young children today feel that they can have a future that they can be safe. This is the first time that six-year-olds will go to school not knowing war, not having to run, not having to hide. Those children see life in Liberia as normal. We must continue on this path, so they can become adults in a normal environment.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and students (
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and students (

In January 2010, President Johnson Sirleaf joined with other diplomats to cement the Guinea Accord. She worries that their neighbor Guinea, which had helped spark Liberia's second civil war, continues to be volatile and will once again threaten to unsettle the region. The participants feel that progress is being made.

Liberia itself has been making progress in small but steady steps and the future still looks bright.

This Child Will Be Great, written by Ellen Johnon Sirleaf
This Child Will Be Great, written by Ellen Johnon Sirleaf

Read another MY HERO story on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Patrick Kiyemba.

Page created on 7/31/2014 8:17:15 PM

Last edited 7/31/2014 8:17:15 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Government of the Republic of Liberia, Executive Mansion, - provides news releases and policies underway
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market Women's Fund - is an "Africa-wide fundraising and grant-making organization created in the belief that African women's rights are inalienable, indivisible and an integral part of universal human rights."
The film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, - documents the Women's Peace Movement in Liberia which helped open the door for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to become the first democratically elected female president in Africa.

Related Books


Author Info

Read the MY HERO story about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's visit with Caroline, Julia and Zoe from New Haven County, Connecticut.