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10 questions for ellen johnson sirleaf

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    Interview with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - TIME






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    10 Questions for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

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    ENLARGE PHOTO+
    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
    Johnson Sirleaf: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty







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    As Africa's first female head of state, how have you been received by your male counterparts? Jay Gelles, CHICAGO
    Very well. I've been fortunate in that I've been in the professional arena for a while, so accepting me was perhaps easier. At the same time, I'm still very lonely. I'm the only one out there. But generally, the reception has been good.
    Do you think Africa will be peaceful and war-free if it has more women in leadership positions? Meskerem Sertse, GENEVA
    I have no doubt about that. I think when women have equal qualifications, experience, capacities, they bring to the task a certain dimension that may be missing in men--a sensitivity to humankind. Maybe it comes from being a mother.
    With the criticisms recently launched against foreign aid programs, do you think Africa is better off without them? Cherae Robinson, ATLANTA
    No, Africa can still use structured, focused aid. The problem is that aid should be properly used. It must support the government's own development agenda. And the country itself should use its own resources well. I think in a few places in Africa, this is happening.
    What is your vision for the relationship between Liberia and the U.S.? Andy Ohiri, HOUSTON
    I hope we will continue to have a strong partnership based on mutuality of interest--that we'll be able to attract U.S. investment and that they in turn will be able to benefit from our raw materials. We hope that our success will be seen as one that has been sponsored and supported by this partnership with the U.S.
    You're an inspiration to many people all over the world. Who inspires you? Margaret Lute, AKRON, OHIO
    [Tanzania's first President] Julius Nyerere was a person I admired very much. In today's world, people like Winnie Mandela, [Nobel Prize winner] Wangari Maathai in Kenya--these are women who are leaders in their own society. And of course, we're just watching Barack Obama. For us, it's a sea change in American political life. He's a star.
    Do you intend to run for a second term? Taweh Johnson BROOKLYN PARK, MINN.
    I'm going to keep Taweh and all the other Liberians guessing. I don't want to be distracted this year while I concentrate on pushing development. The next election is October 2011. Plenty of time to make that decision.
    How does your election as the first female President in Africa help women across the continent? Chris Robertson GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.
    It's going to empower them because now they know they can reach whatever potential they want. Young girls in Liberia now can speak about wanting to be a minister or a President or a leader. I hope that motivation will just spread.
    What advice would you give to mothers who are trying to raise strong, independent women in a world that has been slow to put women in power? Shirley Richardson ROUND ROCK, TEXAS
    To tell young women to try to be the best you can. Be better than the next person, particularly the next man. It's still a male-dominated world. We still have a long way to go, and that's why all women must strive to reach their greatest potential.
    What impact is the trial of Charles Taylor having on Liberia's prospects for peace and stability? Jeremy Waiser FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE







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