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Girls & Women

Africa’s First Elected Female President Won a $5M Prize. She’ll Use It To Empower Women

Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf may be the recipient of the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Prize for excellence in African leadership, but she’s not the only one who’s winning.

Upon receiving the award on Friday, Sirleaf announced that she would use the $5 million prize money to establish the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, CNN reported. The organization will seek “to support women as agents of change, makers of peace, and drivers of progress,” Sirleaf said.

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Sirleaf was not only the first elected female president of any African nation, but she is also the first woman to receive the Mo Ibrahim Prize. Though the 79-year-old was announced the winner of the prize back in February, she did not officially receive the honor until last week.

"We must tackle the historical disadvantages which have made women political outsiders," Sirleaf said in her acceptance speech. "It is my hope that women and girls across Africa will be inspired to break through barriers and to push back the frontiers of possibilities."

The prize money will be distributed over 10 years, after which point, Sirleaf will receive $200,000 each year for being a recipient of the award. According to CNN, Sirleaf is the first person to receive the award since 2014, the last time a candidate was deemed worthy or considered eligible to win.

In 2011, Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to advance women’s rights and establish peace in Liberia. 

The former president made headlines earlier this year for taking major steps toward banning female genital mutilation on her last day in office.

Read more: Africa’s First Female President Bans FGM on Her Last Day in Office

Global Citizen campaigns in support of women’s rights and equal representation. You can take action here to call on world leaders to empower women and girls everywhere.