By Jerromie S. Walters

As Liberia bid farewell to its outgoing Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, the nation and the world will forever venerate her remarkable achievements as a true trailblazer. Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor has left an indelible mark on history as the first woman to serve as First Lady, Senator (twice), President of the Agricultural Cooperative Bank, Deputy Bank Governor, Standard Bearer of a political party, and Vice President of a country, consecutively. Her legacy is a testament to her dedication, resilience, and unwavering commitment to women’s empowerment in Liberia and beyond.

Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor’s journey to becoming a trailblazer in Liberian politics began long before she assumed any of her groundbreaking roles. Born on January 17, 1963, in Liberia, she was raised in a modest family. Despite the challenges she faced growing up, Howard-Taylor always aspired to make a difference in her community and break barriers for women.

Her rise to prominence began when she married Charles Taylor, who later became the President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003. As First Lady, Madam Howard-Taylor played an active role in addressing social and humanitarian issues that plagued her country. She championed causes related to women’s rights, education, health, and economic empowerment, laying the foundation for her future endeavors in politics.

After the end of her husband’s presidency, Madam Howard-Taylor ventured into the political arena herself, seeking to bring about real change from within. In 2005, she successfully contested and won a seat as a senator of Bong County, becoming the first woman in Liberia to serve in the Senate. This achievement not only shattered a long-standing gender barrier but also provided a platform for her to amplify women’s voices and advocate for their rights in national decision-making processes.

During her tenure as a senator, Howard-Taylor demonstrated exceptional leadership capabilities, working tirelessly to address pressing issues affecting her constituents and championing legislation that promoted gender equality, social justice, and economic development. Her dedication to serving the people earned her a second term as senator in 2014, solidifying her role as a respected and trusted political figure in Liberia.

Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor’s commitment to public service extended beyond her role as a senator. In her capacity as President of the Agricultural Cooperative Bank, she focused on empowering farmers and rural communities by providing financial support and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, her subsequent role as Deputy Bank Governor showcased her expertise in economic management and her commitment to fostering inclusive growth.

In 2017, Madam Howard-Taylor embarked on another historic journey, becoming the Standard Bearer of the National Patriotic Party and securing the position of vice president alongside President George Weah. As the Vice President of Liberia, she worked tirelessly to promote national reconciliation, advance women’s rights and gender equality, and champion socioeconomic development initiatives. Her tenure focused on empowering women and youth, recognizing their potential as agents of change and key contributors to Liberia’s future.

Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor’s accomplishments have not only transformed the political landscape of Liberia but have also had a significant impact globally. As the first woman to hold simultaneous positions of First Lady and Vice President, she became a symbol of hope and inspiration for women worldwide, proving that with determination and resilience, they can shatter glass ceilings and excel in leadership roles.

Moreover, Madam Howard-Taylor’s legacy serves as a reminder that women’s empowerment is not just a national agenda but a global imperative. Her tireless efforts to uplift women and ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making processes have set a precedent for future generations to follow.

As Liberia bids farewell to its esteemed Vice President, the nation is left with a legacy that transcends politics. Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor’s pioneering achievements as the first woman to serve in numerous leadership roles will forever inspire women to strive for greatness, break barriers, and make an enduring impact on society. She has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Liberian history and emerged as a true champion of women’s empowerment worldwide.

Historical facts courtesy: Moses Zangar Jr.