Welcome! This blog documents my experience as a Nancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridge Fellow with the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development during my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The views expressed are solely my own and are written to share experiences, introduce issues, and initiate conversation. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Courageous technocrats with heart

Without a doubt the world is looking to Liberia and asking will women's leadership make the difference? I say yes – but not simply because they are women. These women are making the difference because they lead with courage, sincerity in their purpose, and sharp technical skills. Perhaps their gender has contributed to this exact combination of qualities, but each of these characteristics will be central to successfully transforming and rebuilding Liberia.

Early in my time here, I questioned the existence of compassionate technocrats. Can you be a sharp technocrat without losing your compassion and grounded, humble connection to the poor?

Not only do I believe this to be an important question, but I think it is the most important challenge for leaders in development. In order to truly address the plight of the “bottom billion” in our world, we MUST have compassionate technocrats leading the way. Pure goodwill, charity, and solidarity, although admirable, will not eradicate poverty. Nor will a strict regimen of academic-inspired reforms that have lost touch with the human consequences of strategic errors. Policy makers need the best tools, but they also need to believe that their humanity is one in the same with the poorest of the poor.

How do we accomplish such a combination? I’d like to borrow from the inspiring insight of my colleague and friend, Molly; we can’t make it happen without profound courage.

I’d like to acknowledge 4 specific leaders in Liberia’s government who have inspired me with their journeys and their leadership: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Minister of Finance Antoinette Sayeh, Minister of Gender Vabah Gayflor and her Deputy Minister, Annette Kiawu. Each of these women combine dedication and a sharp mind with a sincere sense of purpose in something greater than themselves. With great courage they have stepped up to lead this country, and because of these factors, these are among the women who will make the difference.