Liberian Observer Monrovia William Q. Harmon
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau has said with the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first democratically elected female head of state on the African continent Liberia has set the pace for the world to eventually achieve gender equality globally.

Upon his arrival at the start of a two-day official visit to the country, Prime Minister Trudeau noted that being the first woman elected President and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for « her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work, » have made Madam Sirleaf an example of quality worldwide.

« It was a true honor today to meet with Nobel Laureate President Johnson Sirleaf and others to discuss ways that Canada can help empower young women and girls across the continent to achieve their dreams.

« The President’s unique perspective, as Africa’s first woman to be elected head of state, and her accomplishments are both inspirational and a sign of things to come, » Trudeau said at a press conference in Monrovia during his first official visit to Africa.

This was after he held a closed door discussion with President Sirleaf after which the two leaders addressed a joint press conference in the foyer of the Foreign Ministry.

« I chose Liberia for two things; firstly, because of your President’s strength, resilience and patience that took her to such a level, and second is the extraordinary works that she and all Liberians are doing to ensure women’s issues are promoted in the country, » he said.

The Canadian PM’s visit is intended to help Canada meet its top foreign policy objectives, paramount among these being empowering women and girls, promoting human rights, re-engaging with Africa, and addressing the pressing challenges facing the continent.

At the press conference, PM Trudeau announced over US$12.5 million in new initiatives to support democracy, peace and security, inclusion, and gender equality in Africa. One million out of the amount is intended to ensure Liberia’s peaceful and transparent election next year. The fund will be channeled through the United Nations Development Program, the PM said.

« Without stability, people cannot prosper and development cannot take root. As we strengthen Canada’s international engagement, Africans can count on Canada’s unwavering support in its efforts to achieve a more peaceful, safer and prosperous continent.

« Your President is an example for all women across the world to emulate » he said.

PM Trudeau, who considers himself a proud feminist, and President Sirleaf along with some prominent women leaders also addressed a panel discussion held at the Monrovia City Hall. The women included Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director for

Women, Gender and Development with the African Union; Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; local community activists; and youth.

Prime Minister Trudeau underscored Canada’s commitment to empowering women and girls, recognizing gender equality as being essential to sustainable development and inclusive peace.

The Prime Minister also visited a local school where he saw first-hand how Canadian development assistance and Canadian partners are playing a key role in education, and in helping young Liberians gain the skills needed to participate more fully in society.

President Sirleaf lauded the Prime Minister for choosing Liberia as his first destination on the African continent, and praised him for his position on women. « You are a strong advocate for women’s rights globally and I must commend you for standing with us, » she said while lauding Canada’s contribution to the rebuilding of Liberia.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf late last night tendered a State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister Trudeau and his official delegation at the C. Cecil Dennis Jr. Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau departs the country today, November 25, for Madagascar, where he will participate in the Summit of La Francophonie.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and Liberia were established in 1971. Canada and Liberia share many values, including democracy, peace and security, the rule of law, and gender equality. In 2014-2015, Canada provided more than US$24 million in development assistance to Liberia in the areas of health, education, food security, and the environment.