Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will Saturday, March 7, open an international conference on women's empowerment, development, peace and security. The conference comes a day ahead of International Women's Day Sunday.
Among the more than 400 delegates expected to attend are the Presidents of Finland, Tarja Halonen, Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. In a statement, President Sirleaf said the women's conference would be the first time since 1979 that Liberia will be hosting such a large number of visitors.
Liberian Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh told VOA the conference will draw heavily from United Nations Resolution 1325 on gender equity and women empowerment.
"This is an international colloquium on women leadership, development, peace and security. There is also a strong emphasis on United Nations Resolution 1325 that talks about gender equity and women empowerment, and Liberia through this time will also be initiating the national action plan in terms of implementing Resolution 1325," he said.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in January 2006 as Africa first elected female head of state.
Bropleh said President Sirleaf has done a lot to empower Liberian women, although he said the country as a whole has yet to catch up.
"The President has done quite a bit; the nation has not done enough but that is because this something that is new to this nation, having women in the highest echelon of leadership. What President Sirleaf's coming to power has done, it has brought new buoyancy of hope for women in Liberia. In President Sirleaf's cabinet there are many women in senior cabinet positions; there are others who are junior cabinet ministers in her government. In the parliament, there are many women are senators and representatives," Bropleh said.
He said the Sirleaf administration has provided an opportunity for Liberian women to see themselves nationally and internationally as strong players in democratizing the world.
President Sirleaf is co-hosting the women's conference with Finland's President Tarja Halonen. But Bropleh said other world leaders and prominent international women will also be in attendance.
"You will have María Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the first vice president of Spain; you will have Mrs. WinnieMandela, the former wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela; you will have the current wife of former president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel coming. You will have Mary Robinson the former and first female president of Ireland. But also you will have male presidents coming. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal are also coming," Bropleh said.
He said funding for the conference has been made possible by an international steering committee made up of countries from around the world as well as agencies of the United Nations. Bropleh also said the Liberian government contributed to funding the conference from its national budget.