12 Black Women You Should Know // Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born 29 October 1938) is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa.

She was educated at the College of West Africa before moving to the United States, where she studied at Madison Business College and Harvard University. She returned to Liberia to work in William Tolbert’s government as Deputy Minister of Finance from 1971 to 1974 and later went to work for the World in the Caribbean and Latin America.

She won the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. She was re-elected in 2011. In June 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created.

In 2011, Sirleaf was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The three women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Sirleaf was conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on 12 September 2013.] As of 2016, she is listed as the 83rd-most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.
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