Born: February 1, 1972, Monrovia, Liberi
Occupation: Activist, Social Worker, Women’s Rights Advocate; Founder and President of Gbowee Peace USA; Executive Director of Women, Peace and Security Program at the Earth Institute at Columbia University
Awards: 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
Leymah Gbowee is a shining example of how peace and unity can overcome hate and triumph. Liberia is a country in Africa that experienced a civil war from 1989 to 1997 and then again from 1999 to 2003 (referred to as Liberia’s second civil war).
As Liberia’s Second Civil War began, Leymah was a poor, young mother of four living with her parents. After witnessing the horrors of war and the abuses to women, Leymah committed to paving the way for women to live in a world with less fear and more hope and opportunities. Through unity and peace, Leymah started a movement credited with ending Liberia’s 18 year-long civil war. In a 2011 interview aired on CBS, Leymah stated that “violence will never settle peace.” Leymah’s trauma healing work began in 1998, through providing counseling to former boy soldiers. Leymah persisted that peace was the answer and it should, and could be, achieved together.
A significant turning point in the movement came when Leymah brought Muslim and Christian women together to form the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace in 2003. The women assembled peacefully and got their husbands onboard to pay attention by staging a sex strike. The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace advocated for peace talks and successfully set up a meeting that brought together the current president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, and the rebel soldiers to negotiate a peace deal. Over 200 women showed up in solidarity to ensure that their voices were heard and their rights were met. The peace talks were successful, and Liberia’s long civil war came to an end.
The actions of Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace have been models for women’s rights, peace, and security. In 2011 Leymah was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for her actions and activism. She continues to be a devoted advocate for women’s right to peace and security.
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Featured photo by Fronteiras do Pensamento from Wikipedia