April 10, 2009

The First Elected Female President? In the United States, we are still awaiting the day when we can celebrate the election of a woman to the presidency, but for the country of Liberia, the wait is over. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a 67 year-old, Harvard educated economist, is the first female to be elected president in the history of Liberia. For her, and much of the rest of Liberia's female population, the change to female leadership was long overdue. Global map Staggering unemployment and crumbling infrastructure due to a civil war lasting more than a decade are the legacy left to Sirleaf. With unemployment at 85%, electricity distribution problems and only 1 textbook for every 27 children, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf certainly has her work cut out for her. But she, and the many women who helped to elect her, have nothing but confidence in her ability to rise to these many challenges. In the period of over 160 years in which Liberia has had independence, men have ruled and, in the words of many of the women they "have failed us." Sirleaf adds that the male leadership "either by commission or omission enabled these wars" that have led to the devastation of their West African nation and that what the women of Liberia said clearly in the last election was that "now is the time for change." And change has come. Half-way into her first term as president, Sirleaf has rebuilt the army, taken on corruption and begun to rebuild the infrastructure. It remains to be seen just how much more can be accomplished under this powerful woman's command. For more, watch the introductory four-minute video and check the WorldFocus website for an upcoming four-part series on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Making Small Talk With Men in Dresses I pride myself on being open-minded and I think that I do a very admirable job of not just talking the talk, but of walking the walk as well. Even so, I have to admit that accepting everyone is much easier when done from a distance than when it becomes up close and personal. My ability to be truly accepting of people who have different views, life experiences and ways of being in the world was tested recently, and for a brief moment, I wondered wether or not I would pass the test. I belong to a very liberal church and we are a welcoming congregation which means that we really do welcome all. You can believe in God (or gods) or not. You can lean towards paganism or fancy yourself a western Buddhist. You can be black or white, Asian or Hispanic, lesbian or gay, transgendered or transsexual. Come one, come all. Our inclusiveness is what drew me to this church and I believe myself to be ready for anything. But then I met Tracy (not her real name). I wasn't quite sure what to make of Tracy. She was always beautifully dressed and very polite but her figure and features had a masculine edge that I couldn't help but notice. I began to wonder if she was really a "she" at all. A masculine looking woman? A transsexual in progress? A man who just likes to wear dresses? Whatever the answer, I was truly willing to accept it. I just found that the not being clear on who I was dealing with was a bit disconcerting, not to mention distracting. How does one make small talk with a man in a dress anyway? I made a point of pushing myself to look past the incongruities and to get to know Tracy, the person. It wasn't easy at first. I wasn't feeling judgmental or prejudiced. It was more a feeling of confusion. The first few conversations

Lori Jewett

I'm an overly educated stay-at-home mom with two kids and the need for adult conversation.

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