Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, Liberia 1938. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,devotedly referred to as the "Iron Lady" by her supporters, become Africa's first elected female head of state following Liberia's presidential run-off in November 2005. She becomes the 23rd president of Liberia. Prior to becoming president she led a distinguished career spanning nearly four decades in local and international public life. Following the rise of President Samuel K. Doe, Sirleaf left Liberia and spent most of the '80s in Kenya and the United States as an executive in the international banking community. While in exile she acquired considerable international experience at the Citibank in Nairobi, the UNDP and the World Bank. She held the post of Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa at the UNDP, formulating development strategies for African economies. She is truly a beacon of hope to the African girl child that all things are possible. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has made it clear that Liberia, although destroyed and weakened by years of conflict, is not seeking handouts, nor is the country asking for assistance based on humanitarian grounds. Commenting on a recent trip to China, Johnson-Sirleaf says she did not go to China to beg but to engage the Chinese government and investors to take advantage of the potential investment climate in Liberia
LIBERIA ACCORDING TO MADAM SIRLEAF
"My family exemplifies the economic and social divide that has torn our nation...Three of my grandparents were indigenous Liberians; the fourth was a German who married a rural market woman. That grandfather was forced to leave the country when Liberia - in loyalty to the United States - declared war on Germany in 1914.
Both of my grandmothers were farmers and village traders. They could not read or write any language - as more than three-quarters of our people still cannot today - but they worked hard, they loved their country, they loved their families and they believed in education. They inspired me then, and their memory motivates me now to serve my people, to sacrifice for the world and honestly serve humanity. I could not, I will not - I cannot - betray their trust.
I was not born with the expectation of a university education from Harvard or being a World Bank officer or an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. When I was a small girl in the countryside, swimming, and fishing with twine made from palm trees, no one would have picked me out as the future president of our country.
I graduated from the College of West Africa, a United Methodist high school. I waited tables to support my studies in the United States - college in Wisconsin and graduate school in Massachusetts. I went on to enjoy the benefits and advantages of a world-class education.
So my feet are in two worlds - the world of poor rural women with no respite from hardship, and the world of accomplished Liberian professionals, ... I draw strength from both.
But most of our people have not been as fortunate as I was. Always poor and underdeveloped, Liberia is only now emerging from two decades of turmoil that destroyed everything we managed to build in a century and a half of independence.
In the campaign months, I traveled to every corner of our country. I trudged through mud in high boots, where roads did not exist or had deteriorated past repair. I surveyed ruined hospitals and collapsed clinics. I held meetings by candlelight, because there is no electricity anywhere - including the capital - except from private generators. I was forced to drink water from creeks and un-sanitized wells all of which made me vulnerable to the diseases from which so many of our people die daily.
I came face to face with the human devastation of war, which killed a quarter of a million of our three million people and displaced most of the rest. Hundreds of thousands escaped across borders. More - who could not - fled into the bush, constantly running from one militia or another, often surviving by eating rodents and wild plants that made them sick and even killed them.
Our precious children died of malaria, parasites, and mal-nourishments. Our boys, full of potential, were forced to be child soldiers, to kill or be killed. Our girls, capable of being anything they could imagine, were made into sex slaves, gang-raped by men with guns, made mothers while they were still children themselves.
I represent those dreams. I represent their hope and their aspirations. I ran for president because I am determined to see good governance in Liberia in my lifetime. But I also ran because I am the mother of four, and I wanted to see our children smile again."
... listening to the hopes and dreams of our people, I recall the words of a Mozambican poet who said, "Our dream has the size of freedom. My people, ... believe deeply in freedom - and, in their dreams, they reach for the heavens.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Speech to the U.S. Congress Delivered March 15, 2006 at US Joint Session of Congress Washington D.C.
Sirleaf Kickoff During the Sports for the Development of the Underprivileged (SDU) July Tourney in Monrovia. A remarkable lady indeed.
FAST FACTS ON LIBERIA
- Liberia is the first independent Republic in Africa.
- The capital, Monrovia, is named USA president James Monroe.
- The national motto of Liberia - founded by freed American slaves - is "The Love of Liberty Brought us here."
- Population size 3,042,004