Member of the inaugural ALA class, Cornelia Kruah-Togba is breaking boundaries as a public servant and advocate for youth and women’s empowerment in her home country of Liberia. Cornelia participated in the first ALforGovernance conversation on September 17th. During the discussion, she shared her authentic and inspiring experiences and reflected on the many challenges she has faced as a woman today in political leadership positions.
Cornelia grew up the oldest of four siblings. Things drastically changed in her life at age seven, when her parents got divorced. It was from this young age that Cornelia decided to take on the responsibility of the primary caretaker of her household. She felt responsible for her younger siblings as her mother was going through a difficult separation with her father. During this time, Cornelia realized that she was passionate about caring for the people around her. From such a young age, Cornelia discovered her passion for helping people which eventually evolved into her career as a public servant and advocate in Liberia.
Cornelia always saw great value in focusing on her education. She attended St. Teresa Covent High School- an all-girls high school from Kindergarten to High School. Once she graduated from High School in Liberia, she then applied to be part of the inaugural ALA class, aspiring to develop her leadership skills through the ALA curriculum. Cornelia returned to Liberia for University studying Economics and Management. During her undergraduate studies, Cornelia began volunteering for the Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (ABIC). Soon after, she took up the official position as a Youth Empowerment Officer starting her impressive career in 2011. She worked on numerous initiatives such as the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) and the UN High Level Panel in Monrovia.
During this time, she also ran and executed the “Put Ma Ellen There” Youth Initiative in which she chaired a committee of 30 youth from the fifteen counties of Liberia to strategize and raise funds, on behalf of the youth of Liberia, for the construction of a statue of President of the Republic, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first female democratically elected Head of State in Africa in the “Garden of Nations” at the University of Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. After meeting with the President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cornelia asked her to be her mentor and the two have had a close professional relationship since then.
In 2014 after gaining enough experience, Cornelia pivoted her career in order to further align with her passion and went into the political sphere. She started working at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, then the Ministry of Public Works, and ended up in the Ministry of Education. During this time, she also impressively established the Young Women’s Empowerment Network (YOWENET) in 2017- an organization that aims to build a strong network of women in order to help uplift their political careers. However, Cornelia’s academic career did not stop at this point. She went on to complete a Master of Arts in International Politics & Economics at Kingston University in London, United Kingdom.
Keen to further understand politics and the legislation behind political parties, Cornelia started pursuing her law degree at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in Liberia. In January 2018, Cornelia was admitted into the prestigious Order of the Star of Africa for her contributions to Liberia by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The same year Cornelia started Law School and was recognized as an Amujae Leader by President Sirleaf, Cornelia ran as a candidate of the former ruling Unity Party in Montserrado county and impressively came 3rd out of 11 candidates. Although she did not win, Cornelia is determined to have a different outcome in the next election in 2023. Learning from her first campaign, she is wary of the security risk that comes with being a young woman in politics. Although Cornelia does not believe she lost because she was a woman, her male opponents did not hesitate to use violence and inappropriate language to slander her as an individual and her platform.
With help and support from the ALA network, Cornelia believes she can execute her mission of empowering the local community especially women and children through her Empowerment Fund. Looking forward to 2023, Cornelia is determined to win this time in order to create positive change in her home country.
Cornelia is currently hard at work with her fellow alum from the inaugural class, James Kiawoin, in order to create awareness around her platform in her local community. Together, they have built The Cornelia Kruah-Togba Empowerment Fund which aims to support small businesses and young people to positively impact their communities. The fund provides financing and training to viable businesses and invests in grassroots project that improves educational outcomes and opportunities for youth in District #13, Montserrado County, Liberia. This Empowerment Fund has two strategic focus area 1) Small Business Support and 2) Youth Empowerment. The dynamic duo of Cornelia and James are primarily focused on interacting with the Montserrado community at the grassroots level. They are working hard in order to great change on the ground, while appealing to the international fundraising community for support.
Image Credits: Empowerment Fund
For the next generation of future leaders on the African continent, Cornelia has two pieces of important wisdom to share with the community.
The most important is to believe in yourself and do not defeat yourself before you are able to make any headway. The second piece of advice is for aspiring, female African politicians to continue to educate themselves. Women in this sector are not treated the same way as men. You will succeed only if you become the most qualified candidate.