TIME100 Summit Africa


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former President

Republic of Liberia

Speaker Profile

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th President of Liberia and the Founder of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Center for Women and Development. Known as “Africa’s Iron Lady,” Nobel Laureate for Peace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been a relentless advocate for peace, democracy, and women’s empowerment. At 85, Madam Sirleaf continues her activism through the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development and various global organizations and boards. She is also a mother, grandmother, and dedicated farmer, tending the rich soil of Liberia to proudly bring produce to market. Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of the Republic of Liberia in November 2005 and became Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state. After decades of regional and civil war, she returned Liberia to the community of nations, rebuilding its charred infrastructure, economy, and democratic institutions. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reestablished the country’s international reputation and credibility by mobilizing over $16 billion in foreign direct investment and lifting debilitating United Nations trade sanctions. In 2014, Johnson Sirleaf presided over the Ebola virus disease epidemic, effectively mobilizing international and community-based support for the response. In 2017, after completing two terms in office, she handed over presidential power, peacefully, and democratically, for the first time in 75 years. Beyond national responsibilities, in May 2012, Johnson Sirleaf was appointed co-chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, tasked with crafting a roadmap for global recovery and sustainable development - The Sustainable Development Goals. In June 2016, President Sirleaf was elected the first female Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a twelve-month term. Among her many accolades, Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, given jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." She is the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the Indira Gandhi Prize, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in Gold by the South African Government. President Sirleaf has been named one of Forbes’s “100 Most Powerful Women in the World,” the most powerful woman in Africa (Forbes Africa, 2011). Johnson Sirleaf has been conferred honorary doctorates by more than 15 institutions. In 2017, former President Sirleaf was the first female recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which celebrates excellence in African leadership. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She also earned a degree in accounting at Madison Business College in Wisconsin and received a diploma from the University of Colorado’s Economics Institute. Johnson Sirleaf has written widely on financial, development and human rights issues. In 2008, she published her critically acclaimed memoir, This Child Will Be Great.

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