The extraordinary journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
I stumbled across this book when I was watching an episode of The Daily Show where she was being interviewed about the above book. The author, Helene Cooper, is a previous White House correspondent of Liberian descent. She has also written The House at Sugar Beach, an equally good book. I’m a fan of Helene Cooper and her work. She is truly talented. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times people! I digress AND advise to read up her story.
I have long been a far admirer of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. There is something about her that is both subtle and striking. I never really paid attention to it enough. I just know that when someone talked about her, I would feel a sense of admiration and respect even though I just knew her as the first female African head of state. Trust me, when I am obsessed with someone worth obsessing over? I go all the way: google every bit of information about them, YouTube interviews, their social media profiles, books or whatever else they have written about themselves..the lot of it. Not Ellen though. Doing that felt kind of disrespectful to Ellen. I mean, Being the First Elected Female head of state in Africa is quite a feat. It’s 2017 and Gender Inequality and Sexism still hugely plagues Africa. Think about how bad it was in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s… till now.
Reading this book will give you a front row seat of what, in the 20th century, trying to be a leader, in any sector, whilst being female, is really like. This book is both eye-opening and horrifying. It really gives you a perspective of what it is like to live in a male-dominated society and actually having the brains and wit to want to fight your way (and for others) out. Helene Cooper beautifully narrates the life of Ellen. She hides nothing. Literally. Whether it is Ellen’s life while growing up, living as an immigrant in a number of countries to finally deciding to run for perhaps the most life- changing seat in the world. Let’s not even mention the grueling helplessness of watching women being sexually assaulted by militia men who once vowed to protect it’s citizens or the Corruption that I equally agree is the vice that Africa needs to get rid of.
Coincidentally, I was reading this book just when my home country was (already has) held its general elections. Seeing the number of female elected politicians increase in Kenya is something to be proud of. Not just Kenya alone really. Speaking from being an African perspective, when I see countries like Rwanda boasting of the highest number of female politicians in the world really just warms the heart you know? It is a good feeling! Seeing Africa being reported on not just a positive light but FACTUAL too is satisfying.
What stood out for me while reading this book was the role women had to play in the Election of Ellen to ‘Madame President’. Seriously, read the book. You will just be amazed at how quick change can be effected if people put their minds to it.