Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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Forbes champions philanthropists and markets, then helps Liberia | 

Forbes, the news source for all things wealth, released its first ever list of fifty biggest givers in the US. Bill and Melinda Gates top the list  after giving away $1.9 billion in 2012. They are followed by Gates Foundation supporter Warren Buffett, George Soros, Mark Zukerberg and Walmart owners, the Walton family.

Click to use interactive list.

It is a straight list of how much money individuals or families give away each year. Included in the numbers is the percentage of net worth that was given away by the top fifty.  Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest rank number thirty-seven by giving away $44.5 million, nearly nine percent of their total wealth. Larry Ellison ranks just a tad higher, but he gave away only 0.1% of his $43.1 billion net worth.

One of the features is an interview with Bill Gates and Bono. Lane hosted a discussion between the two at the Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit. There he discussed how the two initially met, Bono’s self-declared ‘factivist’ streak and how Gates is using numbers to change US education.

It was a representative conversation for the totality of the coverage by Forbes on philanthropy. Market-based ideas were touted with no information to back them or historical context. Important people were profiled without a single question about the efficacy of their work and the tired dynamic of the US helping Africa continued. Continue reading

Liberia’s Presidency: Two sides to the same leaf | 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
WEF

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is well regarded in many international circles. She has the Nobel Peace prize to prove it. Her administration publicly states that it is committed to ending its reliance on foreign assistance within 10 years.

“Goal number one…If we continue on the path with the investment we have, and we open up the economy, and our capacity proves our infrastructure is expanding; in 10 years, Liberia will not require foreign assistance. We have to do it and I’m convinced it can be done,” she said in 2011.

Much like other Western darlings in Africa like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Malawi’s Joyce Banda, the legacy of Johnson Sirleaf is not all sunshine and roses.

Readers of Canada’s Globe & Mail who do not know much about Liberia were presented a depiction of the flawless leader.

When Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” he might have been talking about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Writer David Israelson proceeds to extol Sirleaf Johnson ahead of her appearance at the We Day celebration led by the nonprofit organization Free the Children and its for-profit partner company Me to We. The column seemingly celebrates the accomplishments of Sirleaf Johnson and uses her as a challenge to Canadians to follow her along Ghandi’s path. Continue reading

The Nobel Peace Prize: Women are the key to peace & prosperity | 

The Nobel Peace Prize this year went to three women’s rights advocates “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

They are Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, fellow Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. Here’s a video from UN Women on how women played a role in Liberia’s peace efforts:

As the New York Times story on the Peace Prize noted:

They were the first women to win the prize since Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who died last month, was named as the laureate in 2004. Most of the recipients in the award’s 110-year history have been men, and Friday’s decision seemed designed to give impetus to the fight for women’s rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch, the ONE campaign and most news reports described it as a victory for women’s rights. The Guardian noted the controversial side to this recognition, reporting on some saying it appeared “too political.” (I’m not sure how you can make issues of peace non-political, but I suspect this debate will die down sooner than after the Nobel Committee gave President Barack Obama the prize.)

But it really is about more than just equal rights for women.

Numerous studies have shown that empowering girls and women translates into significant improvements in child health, nutrition, education and their communities’ economic development. This is true in both poor countries and wealthier countries.

It’s not just about women’s rights and peace-making. It’s about what works.