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Liberian President Visits Rwanda, Encourages Women Parliamentarians

Liberia's president is in Rwanda this week, meeting with women parliamentarians from around the world and laying the groundwork for agreements with the Rwandan president. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The international meeting of women parliamentarians opened in Rwanda Thursday with a keynote address from Africa's first elected female head of state Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

In her speech she noted that 48 percent of Rwanda's parliament is comprised of women, the highest percentage in the world.

Rwandan presidential advisor, Richard Sezibera, says Johnson Sirleaf began her address by congratulating the women for making it into parliament.

"She also urged them to use their positions to advance the social life of all Rwandans and Africans in general, but also to advance the cause of gender in decision-making and government programs," he said.

Sezibera says having such a high percent of women in his country's parliament has made a huge difference to Rwanda.

"The women parliamentarians have championed a number of innovative legislation in the area for example, of the fight against gender-based violence, in the different social areas - HIV/AIDS, education for the girl child - and in other national programs, they've been very, very active," he said.

The Liberian president also held talks with her Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.

Kagame advisor Sezibera says the two discussed "potential areas of cooperation" in the areas of governance, finance and commerce, and security.

Sezibera says there were no agreements signed during this trip, but the two are expected to continue their talks.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected on January 16, 2006 in a country struggling to recover from 14 years of civil war. She was in the United States recently to push for debt forgiveness from Liberia's creditors, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund.