The first Afrikaans women leaders to address the UN General Assembly

As the UN turns 75, we show the four African women leaders to address the meeting.

Although most African countries joined the UN in the 1960s shortly after gaining independence, with some joining sooner or later, the first African female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, only addressed the UN in 2006. . General Assembly.

Currently, the 54 African member states of the UN make up 28% of its total membership. Prior to 2006, only male heads of state and government addressed the General Assembly.

Other female heads of state in Africa who followed were Joyce Hilda Banda of Malawi in 2012, Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic in 2014, and most recently Sahle-Work Seventh of Ethiopia in 2019.

Below are the profiles of these inspiring women and photos of their moving speeches from various Sessions of the UN General Assembly:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, known as the ‘Iron Lady’, was President of Liberia from 2006 – 2018. Before she took over the presidency and claimed the title of the first female head of state of the African continent, Mrs. Sirleaf served as finance minister during Samuel K. Then they rule. During this time she was sentenced to ten years in prison for her outspoken criticism of his rule.

She avoided execution and escaped to the US and Kenya, advancing her career as an economist, after which she chose her second presidential bid, after losing her first bid to Charles Taylor, who was later sent into exile. She made history as the first democratically elected female president of the African continent.

Me. Sirleaf inherited an economy devastated by the aftermath of the Civil War. The unemployment rate was high and the country experienced a severe debt crisis. However, her request for debt relief helped remove Liberia’s debt in just five years. Foreign investment and international support increased during her tenure, and she was a leading voice for anti-corruption, establishing Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

In 2007, Ms. Sirleaf awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. This was followed by her reception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, jointly awarded to fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for women’s security and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding”. , the quote said.

The Liberian economy flourished under Ms Sirleaf, until 2014 when the Ebola epidemic plagued Liberia and its neighbors.

In 2018, with me. Sirleaf, she was able to transfer power to her George Weah peacefully – this has not happened between political opponents in the country since 1944.

In her last speech at the UN General Assembly in 2013, Ms. Sirleaf said she had been asked 11 years earlier to speak as the first woman democratically elected head of state in Africa, and called for this trend to continue, saying: “the next generation should belong to women.”

She noted that a peaceful transfer of power was expected in the then presidential election in Liberia, and explained that democracy was the way forward in Liberia as well as the entire African continent.

She elaborated on the tremendous progress made after the devastating civil war, noting that Liberia remained peaceful and stable, and spoke on progress in rehabilitating the country’s infrastructure and providing electricity, water and technology.

She said the transformation of Liberia had empowered citizens, especially women, to “give women, including women in the market and rural areas, a voice and the right to be heard.” In addition, international trade, as well as the improvement of the health care system and the encouragement of youth enterprise, were prioritized.

“We could not have achieved it all without the UN – its political leadership, the generosity of its support for economic development, humanitarian contributions and, most importantly, the stabilization and security offered to our country by the United Nations Mission. in Liberia, “she concluded.

‘I applaud you, Mr President (of the UN General Assembly), and your predecessors, member states and United Nations civil servants around the world who sacrificed to see the first generation of school-age children grow up. in an environment of peace, free from the violence of civil conflict. ‘

Joyce Banda (Malawi)

Joyce Hilda Banda served as President of Malawi during 2012 – 2014, after serving as Vice President of President Bingu wa Mutharika from 2009 – 2012. She was the first female head of state in South Africa.

Me. Banda is known for her commitment to women’s rights, including maternal health and reproductive rights. She also focused on eradicating corruption as well as fighting for rights for all.

When she took office, she tried to restore diplomatic relations and revive the economy.

In 2011, Mrs Banda was named the third most powerful woman in Africa by the American publication Forbes magazine and ranked among the BBC’s 100 Women series.

In her last speech to the UN General Assembly, Ms Banda spoke about the reforms she has introduced in her country and how they have contributed to increased economic stability; a growth of 1.8% for the 2013 year.

In addition, she spoke about the progress made towards the then Millennium Development Goals, in particular those focusing on reducing child mortality, reducing HIV / AIDS and malaria cases, and achieving environmental sustainability, as well as developing global partnerships. . To achieve these goals, she sought to identify bottlenecks and remove – in this case – gender inequality and lack of empowerment initiatives for women. She advocated for girls’ education, poverty eradication, maternal health and nutrition.

“We have decided to invest in improving the livelihoods of poor people in rural and urban areas. The Transformation Initiative aims to modernize our rural communities through a standard package of interventions in health, education, water, sanitation and housing. “

Banda, to reduce poverty in rural areas, said Mrs. Banda also stresses her government’s rural electrification program to boost “industry, trade and agricultural productivity by providing electricity” to break the cycle of “population, growth, malnutrition, mothers. Risks.”

Catherine Samba-Panza (Central African Republic)

Catherine Samba-Panza quickly moved from her appointment in 2013 as a non-partisan mayor of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), to interim president of the country during 2014-2016.

After the resignation of President Michel Djotodia, Mrs. Samba-Panza was elected and installed as president and he immediately started fighting with those fighting for power during the ongoing civil war. She said in a World Bank interview: “I have always been a woman of dialogue who listened to others’ questions.”

Me. Samba-Panza worked to restore state power throughout the country and regrow the failed economy. Special attention was given to civil security as well as disarming and demobilizing armed groups.

During her 2014 speech to the UN General Assembly, she elaborated on the steps being taken to ease tensions, as well as the UN Security Council’s approval of the adoption of Resolution 2149, which calls for the deployment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in authorize the Central area. African Republic (MINUSCA).

As a result of the conflict, CAR’s economy went through a deep recession, with the growth rate dropping to a staggering -36% in 2013. However, the essential budget support for the country was provided by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and the European Union, as well as France, which Ms. Samba-Panza praised.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) decreased by 81 percent, but as a result of the conflict, there were still concerns about safety. She opposed illegal weapons inciting conflict on the continent, saying the issue should be addressed to provide peace and security to all.

“To promote political dialogue and national reconciliation and help Central Africans live better with each other, I have always focused on softening hearts and minds to bring about genuine national reconciliation,” Samba-Panza said.

She concluded: “I would especially like to express my pride in the courage and great resilience of the Central African people and their determination to rise from the recurring crises that have befallen them.” Long live the United Nations! Long live international solidarity to ensure peace and security around the world! “

Sahle-Work Seventh (Ethiopia)

An experienced diplomat, Sahle-Work Zewde, was first Ambassador of Ethiopia to Senegal and then to Djibouti, France and Tunisia before being appointed as a Permanent Representative of UNESCO in Tunisia and Morocco in 2002-2006.

Prior to her appointment as President of Ethiopia, she served as Special Representative at the UN Office on African Union (UNOAU). In 2018, she was elected the first female president of Ethiopia and is currently the only female head of state on the continent.

Me. Zewde is known for her vocation to improve gender equality as well as the unification of the country. Zewde, who represented the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia during the United Nations general debate in 2019, focused on these topics as well as political, legal and economic reforms implemented by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“We have widened the political space by releasing prisoners and journalists in prison; inviting political parties to return home and continue their peaceful struggle; reviewing the laws on voters, terrorism and civil society; and the to end twenty years of conflict with Eritrea, “Ms. Zewde said and emphasized that this would be the basis for a long and flourishing democracy.

She also addressed the issue of job creation for the great youth in Ethiopia, as well as reducing the gap in gender parity. In this regard, she praised Ethiopia for being the largest contributor to the UN peacekeepers, as well as for increasing the role of women in peacekeeping.

She elaborated on how Ethiopia began working on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by investing in human resources, expanding manufacturing and infrastructure to attract foreign investment, mobilizing domestic resources and policies to promote poverty to improve quality of life . She stressed the importance of reducing child labor and child marriages and instead focusing on delivering education to children, even those in rural areas, especially girls, and addressing environmental issues.

Me. Zewde outlined the 2010 Nile River Basin Cooperation Framework Agreement, saying that the hydroelectric power generated by the dam could eventually supply 65 million Ethiopians who have no electricity. She also emphasized co-operation, “As we have always said, joint efforts in the Nile Basin are not an option, but a necessity for a win-win co-operation and successful interdependence between the Nile Basin countries.”

She concludes by addressing multilateralism, which she believes can advance Ethiopia, as well as other nations, on the path of progress, saying: ‘We must work towards a global environment in which all our concerns and interests are taken into account and we can work together moving forward to achieve our goal of collective security and prosperity. ‘

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