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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: The Accomplished Stateswoman

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: The Accomplished Stateswoman

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female African head of state, has had a remarkable life as a politician, activist, and reformer. From her childhood days in Liberia to her leadership in Africa and the world, Sirleaf has left an indelible mark, earning global recognition and numerous accolades. Let’s delve into the life and accomplishments of this remarkable woman.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – The Early Years

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, Liberia in 1938. She attended college in the United States, where she earned a degree in economics and went on to work for the United Nations Development Program. Her career in politics began when she returned to Liberia in 1971 and became the assistant Minister of Finance. She later went on to become the Minister of Finance herself, holding the position from 1979-1980 and again from 1985-1986.


In 1980, Sirleaf was jailed under the dictator Samuel Doe’s regime and later exiled for opposing his government. After 12 years abroad, she returned to Liberia in 1997 to run for the presidency but lost to Charles Taylor. She continued to speak out against Taylor’s oppressive rule, eventually forming an opposition group called the National Patriotic Front of Liberia.


In 2005, Sirleaf ran for president again and won, making history as the first female African head of state. Her election was a turning point in Liberia’s history, coming after 14 years of civil war and instability. Sirleaf’s presidency was marked by major policy reforms and initiatives, including peacebuilding, empowering women and girls, and anti-corruption measures. She also played a major role in securing debt relief for Liberia and improving the country’s public finances.


Sirleaf’s leadership and achievements were recognized on the world stage when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, along with two other women, in recognition of their efforts to promote women’s rights and peacebuilding. She also received other honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Order of the Bath, and the Indira Gandhi Prize.


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s accomplishments are an inspiration to millions of people around the world. She overcame adversity and personal challenges to become a leader who championed democracy, human rights, and equality. Her legacy has left an indelible mark on Liberia, Africa, and the world. As we celebrate her life and achievements, we should remember her words: “If your dream is big enough, you will find a way to make it work.” Let us all continue to strive towards making our dreams a reality, as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has shown us it is possible.

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