News / Africa

Africa's Female Presidents Say They Offer Different Kind of Leadership

TEXT SIZE - +
Cindy Saine
WASHINGTON - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Malawi's new President Joyce Banda and several other female present and former heads of state and government gathered in Washington Monday for a panel discussion on the challenges of international development, democracy and global security.  

The administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, opened the first Frontiers in Development forum at Georgetown University by announcing a unique first panel.

"We did not try this morning and set out to produce an opening panel with five female heads of state. That that happened coincidentally is a signal of the way the world is evolving and changing," said Shah.

Female leaders attending the forum:

  • Malawi's new President Joyce Banda gives a press conference on April 10, 2012 in Lilongwe. (AFP)
  • Labour Party leader Helen Clark and husband Peter Davis vote in the New Zealand general election, Auckland, November 08, 2008. (AP)
  • Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf arrives for a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria's capital Abuja February 16, 2012. (Reuters)
  • Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, participates in a pledge to work on environmental entrepreneurship  in New York on September 21, 2010. (Reuters)
  • Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga attends the 15th Forum 2000 Conference on "Democracy and the Rule of Law" in Prague on October 11, 2011. (Reuters)
In addition to Malawi's Joyce Banda and Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the panel included the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and the former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark. President Banda said she is certain that women look at leadership differently, and that they look at leadership as an opportunity to serve the people.

"And I believe that leadership is a love affair," said Banda. "You must fall in love with the people, and the people must fall in love with you."

President Banda said she came out of an abusive marriage and her long-standing goals are to work tirelessly to empower girls and women economically and to promote maternal health and safe childbirth. She has only been in office for six weeks and attracted a lot of attention for taking quick action to sell the presidential jet and to reduce the size of the presidential motorcade.

Former New Zealand President Helen Clark said this was a refreshing change from normal practice.

"Sometimes symbolic decisions, such as President Banda has just made, around selling the presidential plane and the fleet of Mercedes, when I tweeted about this, I got an incredibly positive reaction about 'there's a woman in charge,' said Clark."

Ms. Clark said women tend to make better leaders because they are more directly connected to the needs of their people and because they still more often play a direct role in caring for children and frail relatives.  

President Sirleaf of Liberia said having women in leadership positions does make a real difference. Ms. Sirleaf had this response when asked what she would like Western and international development assistance donors to recognize.

"That our people, particularly those is rural areas, are intelligent if not educated, that they know what their needs are, they know what best will help them to change their lives," said Sirleaf.

Several of the speakers pointed out that with tough economic times in the United States and Europe, there are likely to be cuts in the amount of development assistance.  U.S. Senator Richard Lugar strongly defended U.S. foreign aid programs.

"But I would assert this morning that development assistance, when properly administered, remains a bargain for United States national security and for our own economic and moral standing in the world," Lugar said.

Senator Lugar, a moderate Republican from Indiana, lost his Republican primary race in his home state last month to a more conservative Tea Party challenger, and will be leaving the Senate after 36 years.  He has been a leading champion of U.S. development aid.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jasper from: Kampala Uganda
June 13, 2012 5:32 AM
Kudos for Banda but as for Ellen and what she has done to the nation..... I am hesitant. Appointing sons in key positions makes her look like a male dictator- if she doesn't change she should not use her gender to say anything!


by: Rob
June 12, 2012 7:00 AM
What ms. Banda has shown so far is not leadership. She is following the orders of her donors. Why else would she decriminalise homosexuality, when no one in her country is in favor of that? Why else would she refuse entry to the president of Sudan for an African Union conference, when she is the president of another African country? Ms. Sirlieaf, by the way, is one of the most corrupt "leaders" in Africa today. Woman or man, it makes no difference to me, if they don't show real leadership and honesty to the their people.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid