Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Global Leadership Awards
In 2006, Vital Voices inaugurated the Global Trailblazer Award in honor of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and the first elected African woman to serve as head of state.
Neither imprisonment nor exile could dampen Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s spirit or great love for her country. Her lifelong commitment to public service includes such prominent positions as Minister of Finance of Liberia, President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, and Senior Loan Officer of the World Bank.
She has represented Liberia on the boards of the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, as well as serving five years as Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Program with the rank of Assistant Secretary General.
In 1997, she ran for president in Liberia, finishing second among thirteen candidates. She also served as head of Liberia’s Governance Reform Commission, before resigning in March 2005 to enter the presidential race.
Though her own grandmothers were illiterate, today as a grandmother herself, President Sirleaf holds a degree from Harvard, numerous international honors, and, most important, the hopes of her people as they emerge from decades of turmoil.
As she once told a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress, “My people, like your people, believe deeply in freedom — and, in their dreams, they reach for the heavens. 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.”