By Macarena Soto
Madrid, Mar 9 (EFE).- Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was the first woman to become the president of an African country, Liberia, and with the experience she gained from reconciling a society after a brutal civil war she told EFE that if female leaders were in power in more nations “war would be very different.”
The ex-president expressed herself in an interview with EFE during her brief stay in Madrid, where she will participate in an event on managing pandemics, about which she has much to say since during her 2006-2018 administration she had to deal with the Ebola crisis in her country.
A well-known and acclaimed defender of women’s rights, Johnson-Sirleaf said that it was “unacceptable” that there are only 22 currently serving female national leaders, adding that the world must continue to break through that so-called glass ceiling.
“I broke the ceiling, but we don’t want tokenism,” she said, adding that the objective has not been achieved yet.
Johnson-Sirleaf received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for women’s right to work in building peace in her country.
A member of the Club de Madrid, an organization that places a high value on multilateralism and cooperation, she said that the wars in Ukraine and Afghanistan would be “very different” if the leaders of the countries involved were women and not men.
She said that female leaders would be fighting for compromise and dialogue and would not be involved in the destruction of human life, adding that violence is not the way in which women act because, to begin with, they have children and they have the instinct to protect them.
She remarked that seeing new conflicts arise around the world is very sad and she linked these outbreaks of violence to men making decisions to acquire “more power” and more control over certain parts of the world.
“Will it change?” she asked, adding that there is hard work ahead because the male mindset of domination is still prevalent in the top echelons of government around the world.
The 83-year-old former president noted that female heads of state had managed the Covid-19 pandemic very differently from male leaders, particularly in the early months of the crisis when they had to impose harsh restrictions on their populations.
“Women have a better sensitivity to human life, to human rights, and so they bring to the position … that feeling of concern, that empathy, that you don’t find in men. And so when women take on a responsibility they take it on with a lot more energy, with a lot more … intensity to be able to achieve it,” she said.
And that, she said, is why in the countries headed by women they were able to make “progress in such a short period of time” against the Covid-19 pandemic.
When those leaders had to make “hard decisions” and implement “protocols” to be able to fight the pandemic “they had the courage to do it,” she said.
Johnson-Sirleaf also said that the African countries, which had already dealt with the Ebola epidemic, were those who took the latest worldwide health crisis more “seriously.”
She said that African nations had taken Covid-19 seriously due to their experience with Ebola and while others thought that the new pandemic would not hurt them, that it would not affect them, African nations worked to fight it despite not having the financial or vaccine resources to do so most effectively.
Along those lines, she criticized the fact that the African continent still does not have full access to enough vaccine for the entire population, adding that as long as there are unvaccinated people “nobody is safe.”
The inequality in vaccine availability has prolonged the pandemic, she said, noting that 70 percent of the citizens in low-income countries were supposed to be vaccinated by the end of this year, but she did not know whether that goal would be achieved.