By Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO, United Nations Foundation
I’m here in Liberia with Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in the only African country that has a female President. Still recovering from its civil war, Liberia is full of opportunity and the determination to build back its country. It starts with the women.
We’ve met women who are government ministers, senators, security officers, and peacekeepers. Each of them proved to me that this country has already adopted the concept of women in leadership as a critical part of the path forward. We met with women in their communities, in rural villages and small towns. They introduced us to a “peace hut” program — a place where men and women could come together to resolve conflicts in their neighborhood.
Girls are an important part of the future here in Liberia. They have to be part of our focus. Many girls have two children by age 15 and the number who complete secondary school is low. But the girls we met today told Michelle Bachelet they want to be a doctor, a lawyer, pastor, Minister of Finance, and President. She replied that she was a doctor and then a president…and that every girl can be. She told them we need everyone’s help and that women must lead.
So as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2011 in Liberia, with two women who have made history as their countries’ first female presidents, we can all learn from their journeys and their conviction that it all starts with the women.
This article was originally published by the United Nations Foundation.
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