Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: You'd be praying too if you had her job.
At The Hunger Project fundraising dinner on Saturday night (see previous blog
), Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (there to receive the Africa Prize) received a rousing welcome (as did Wangari Maathai) and accepted the award graciously on behalf of the people, and especially the women, of Liberia, a country ravaged by civil war and with virtually no infrastructure intact. Her speech, while somewhat technocratic (she is a Harvard-trained economist after all) still seemed to get the attendees' juices flowing and perhaps their wallets opening.
What was interesting to your fancy-party-going correspondent was that the plans she laid out that echoed the work of Wangari Maathai and new peace laureate Muhammad Yunus in being grassroots and woman-focused. Johnson-Sirleaf wrapped up her speech by commenting on the fact that she had brought women to run many of the ministries. She hadn't been able to get as many women for as many ministries as she'd wanted (an indication that she's had to make many tough compromises, and God knows, will have to make more. But what she lacked in quantity, she said, she made up for in quality. Women now ran commerce, justice, sports, and, most crucially the police. In a country in which systematic rape and the use of child soldiers were rampant during the devastating civil war, that can only mean good news.
Now to get proper sanitation, running water, electricity, jobs for the thousands of unemployed young men who made a living from killing people, foreign and domestic trading again, debt alleviation, a banking system, viable currency....