Photo: K. Opprann
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Born: 29 October 1938, Monrovia, Liberia
Role: President of Liberia
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Prize motivation: "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."
Prize share: 1/3
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, Liberia. She married in 1955 and, in 1961, travelled with her husband to the US, where she studied economics at Harvard University and other institutions. After her return to Liberia, she worked for the government, including as the Minister of Finance, prior to the military coup of 1980. After having worked within the banking industry and at the United Nations, she was defeated in the Liberian presidential election of 1997. She was later elected as president in 2005 and then re-elected in 2011. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has four children.
Women often suffer most when wars and conflicts erupt. At the same time, their opportunity to influence events during conflicts is often severely limited. Women's rights and full participation in democratic processes are important to ensure lasting peace. In Liberia, bloody civil wars ravaged the country between 1989 and 2003. In 2005, two years after the guns fell silent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the nation's president. As the first female head of state ever to be democratically elected in Africa, she has worked to promote peace, reconciliation and social and economic development.