Nick Name: Iron Lady of Africa
Birthday: October 29, 1938
Nobel Peace Prize
Age: 81 Years, 81 Year Old Females
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Born in: Monrovia
Famous as: Africa’s First Elected Female Head of State
Spouse/Ex-: James Sirleaf
father: Jahmale Carney Johnson
children: Charles Sirleaf, Fombah Sirleaf, Robert Sirleaf
Founder/Co-Founder: Truth and Reconciliation Commission
education: 1971 - Harvard University, 1970 - University of Colorado Boulder, College of West Africa, 1964 - University of Wisconsin-Madison, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Wisconsin School of Business
awards: 2011 - Nobel Prize for Peace
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the current President of Liberia. She is Africa’s first elected female head of state, famously dubbed as the ‘Iron Lady of Africa’. An economist by training, she assumed office in 2006 as the first democratically elected female president in postcolonial Africa. Previously she had run for the post of senate, vice-president and president in Liberia and also raised her voice against the unjust rule of military regimes. She spent much of her political career in exile trying to increase international awareness about the chaos and violence that was consuming her country. Throughout her career, she demonstrated passionate commitment to good governance, advocating for the rights of women and the importance of education to provide a better future for her country and its people. Upon becoming the president, she made considerable progress, notably to relieve Liberia from its crushing foreign debt. She also worked towards the liberation of African women, who have long borne the brunt of the violence, instability, and poverty that plagued the continent. She personified the nation's ability to recover from the long nightmare of civil war and has been righteously honored with the ‘Nobel Prize for Peace’ for her sincere efforts. She has revived national hope by strengthening the institutions of national security, leading the revitalization of the national economy, and restoring Liberia’s international reputation and credibility.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on October 29, 1938, in Monrovia, Liberia, to Jahmale Carney Johnson, a lawyer, and his wife, a teacher. Her father belonged to ‘Gola’ community while her mother was of mixed Kru and German ancestry.
From 1948 to 1955, she studied at the College of West Africa. In 1961, she went to the United States and earned an associate degree in accounting from Madison Business College, Wisconsin.
From 1969 to 1971, she studied economics and public policy at Harvard's ‘John F. Kennedy School of Government’ and earned a Masters of Public Administration degree.
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Upon completing her studies, she returned to her native Liberia and became the Assistant Minister of Finance under the government of William Tolbert in 1972 but resigned after a year.
After Tolbert’s assassination and execution of most of the cabinet by Samuel K. Doe in 1980, she initially accepted a post in the new government as ‘President of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment’.
In 1981, she moved to Nairobi to serve as the Vice President of the African Regional Office of Citibank, a post she held for four years. She resigned from Citibank following her involvement in the 1985 general election in Liberia and went to work for Equator Bank, a subsidiary of HSBC.
In 1992, she was appointed the Director of the ‘United Nations Development Programme's Regional Bureau for Africa’ at the rank of Assistant Administrator and Assistant Secretary General (ASG). In 1997 she resigned from the post to run for the president in the general elections in Liberia.
She ran as the presidential candidate from the United Party against Charles Taylor and was placed second, getting one-fourth of the total votes in the controversial election. As a result, she left the country soon after and went into exile.
In the 2005 general elections, she returned to contest for the post of President and took over as the leader of the Unity Party. That year, promising economic development and an end to corruption and civil war, she was elected as the President of Liberia.
On January 16, 2006, she assumed the office of the President of Liberia. She became the world's first elected black female president and Africa's first elected female head of state.
In 2011, she decided to run for a second term in office in the presidential election, a decision highly criticized by the opposition leaders. She won against the ‘Congress for Democratic Change’ party candidate Winston Tubman and took presidential oath for her second presidency on January 16, 2012.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006, she became the recipient of ‘Common Ground Award’ and the ‘Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger’. The same year, she also received the ‘David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award’.
In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States.
In 2010, she was presented with the ‘Friend of the Media in Africa Award’ by The African Editor's Union.
In 2011, she was conferred with the ‘Nobel Prize for Peace’, which she shared with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. The award was given "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".
In 2012, she received the ‘Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development’. The same year, she was awarded France’s highest award and public distinction, the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur.
She has received honorary doctorates from various prestigious universities including ‘Indiana University’, ‘Brown University’, ‘Harvard University’, and ‘Yale University’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1956, at the age of 17, she married James Sirleaf. They had four sons together and divorced later on.