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Leaders in Africa

Last week, I represented Concern Worldwide at two events in Washington, DC. At these events, I met some inspiring leaders who are committed to the fight against global poverty.

Child survival

I wrote last week about the Child Survival Call to Action, which focused on ensuring the survival of newborns, children and mothers. Concern’s new charity report, which documents what we have learnt in our work with child survival, was launched at this event.

Exceptional speakers

I also attended the USAID Frontiers in Development meeting. By any standards, the speakers at this event were exceptional. Chaired by Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour, it consisted of President Joyce Banda of Malawi, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo. Also present were Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner for human rights.

African leader

They are all women of great distinction. President Johnson Sirleaf is the first woman to lead an African country. A decade ago, she inherited a country ravaged by civil war. She has made remarkable progress in establishing the basic institutions of the state.

But, she is the first to acknowledge the scale of the task ahead of her and of her people. She is also calling for sustained support for her country but she wants to bring Liberia to a point where it no longer needs charity assistance and can stand on its own.

Remarkable change

Joyce Banda took over the reins of power last April, when Malawi’s reputation had been diminished as a result of corruption and erratic governance. As I observed during a trip to Malawi in early May, she has brought about a remarkable change.

Empowering women

She spoke about her own life – how she was at risk of death while giving birth to her fourth child. That led to her commitment to improve the health services for other Malawian women.

Concern’s charity work

She kindly acknowledged the important contribution Concern has made to her country over the past decade. I was delighted to be able to present her with a book "Poverty, AIDS and Hunger, Breaking the Poverty Trap in Malawi," edited by my good friend Anne Conroy and supported by Concern. The book is a symbol of our commitment to Malawi, a country which now can look forward to a better future led by this most impressive leader.