“As I prepare to leave office in a few months, I am proud that the women of Africa and world have now seen that women can be leaders; that they can do everything men can do, and most times better.
“As I leave, there will be a major gap because I will be leaving presidency as first democratically-elected woman in our continent. We have to work, build networks across borders, across seas, across continents and communities to achieve parity in politics.
“I will continue to reach out and work with institutions that work for women parity. Also, I will commit to change the status of women in Africa.”
Speaking in Nigeria on Friday, Sirleaf lamented that the gender parity gap has widened in Africa, and will take 99 years to close.
Therefore, African women should take advantage of their positions to work for parity in politics and close the gap, she said.
“It is predicted that closing the gap will take 99 years. This tells us we have a task. All women in West Africa will have to do much more to get the equality we all seek,” Sirleaf declared.
She gave the advice on Friday in Owerri, capital of Imo state in South East Nigeria, where she attended the “Imo Women Summit”.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and first democratically-elected president of Liberia said, although young girls and women know what to gain in political office, they were hampered from attaining their dreams.
Sirleaf enumerated these barriers to include access to finance; access to factors of production; access to professional campaign advice; and, access to campaign support.
“Women in Africa are still behind in politics due to social, cultural and economic constraints,” she said.
Therefore, she went on, “we need to engage the government; we need to take the advantages we have to cover the disadvantages we are facing.”
To the 79-year-old Harvard University graduate, women “must do more to achieve parity in ministries, in education and in politics”.
“Parity means good news for the continent and the world,” she continued.
According to Sirleaf, education was the key to break these barriers and for women to be better equipped to achieve parity.
Rochas Okorcha, the Governor of Imo state, welcomed the Liberian leader, explained that her visit was to inspire women and expose strategies for women to take over.
Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf, he said, had demonstrated that she is one of the greatest in the world.
Okorcha described Sirleaf as a woman of courage who was imprisoned two times, castigated and called names in her quest for political office in Liberia.
Sirleaf, he added, has been baptised by fire as is gold. “There cannot be gold without fire. She is gold and she went through fire”.