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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Liberian leader Sirleaf, launches global initiative

Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first black, woman president of Liberia and often referred to as “The Iron Lady”, is launching a global campaign to raise funds in hopes of repairing her country’s debt-ridden economy.

Photo ULLA Liberia President Ellen Johnson-SirleafRecently Johnson accepted an invitation to visit Canada where she met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During her 2-day visit, Johnson sought Harper’s support for debt waiver ahead of the upcoming G-8 meeting. Canada is a member of the G-8.

While in Canada Johnson presented a keynote speech at the Canada 2020 Conference on social policy and global leadership, where it was announced that Spread the Net and UNICEF Canada have purchased 33,000 long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets for distribution to children and pregnant women in Liberia. Liberia is facing a significant health challenge from malaria, the number-one killer of children there. Liberian parents often have large families, 6 or more children, in the hope that at least one or two will survive to adulthood.

Spread the Net is raising funds in Canada for the purchase of additional bed nets for children under the age of five and pregnant women in both Liberia and Rwanda. The two-year campaign, launched in November 2006, aims to raise $5 million to provide bed nets to these two countries.

Johnson is faced with the challenge of not only reducing her nation’s crippling financial debt and eradicating malaria she must also find a way to eradicate persistent, endemic corruption, address human rights abuse and investigate war crimes at the same time her government struggles to foster goodwill among surrounding countries that were former enemies.

As part of her mission to wrest Liberia from the brink of disaster and educate the world about the need for parity among people and nations, Johnson has accepted an invitation to deliver the commencement address to the Spelman College Class of 2007 on Sunday, May 20 at 4P.M.

Considering the serious issues of illiteracy, abject poverty, sexual violence, domestic abuse and political disenfranchisement that exist in her country, it is not surprising that Johnson would pick Spelman, this private, historically black women's college in Decatur, Georgia boasts such outstanding alumnae, as Children's Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman; U.S. Foreign Service Director General Ruth Davis; authors Tina McElroy Ansa and Pearl Cleage and actress LaTanya Richardson

Spelman’s graduating class will be fertile ground over which to reiterate the promise Johnson made during her inaugural speech: “This administration must endeavor to give Liberian women prominence in all affairs of our country. We will empower all Liberian women in all aspects of our national life…. We will enforce without fear of failure the laws against rape. We will encourage all families to educate all children, especially the girls.”

By Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

ABOUT SPELMAN:: Founded in 1881, Spelman College is the only historically Black college in the nation to be included on the U.S. News and World Report's list of top 75 "Best Liberal Arts Colleges. http://www.spelman.edu.

Further information:: Bed Nets - Nothing But Nets


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