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Female Presidents Of Liberia, Malawi Pledge To Address Gender Equality, Improve Women’s Health

“The only two female heads of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Malawian President Joyce Banda, have just committed to using their positions to improve the lives of women across the continent,” Inter Press Service reports. The article describes the presidents’ comments at a recent women’s right event in Monrovia, Liberia, and says, “[T]he challenges before them are great. Using the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a barometer, Liberia and Malawi generally score low in the areas of gender equality and women’s empowerment, education for girls, and maternal health.”

“But as Banda noted during her speech, there has never been a better time to advance women’s rights in Africa,” according to IPS. Liberia already has a program focused on improving maternal and child health, and Malawi plans to launch a “presidential initiative on maternal health and safe motherhood,” the news service notes. “‘I know that women in Africa still face many challenges due to HIV and AIDS, poverty, conflict, and harmful cultural practices, among other issues,’ Banda said as she looked over to Sirleaf. ‘However, I firmly believe that you and I will tirelessly work together to make sure that women’s rights on the continent get better,'” IPS writes (Lupick/Kanneh, 5/9).