Here is the second installment of women who inspire in honor of Women's History Month!
Leymah Gbowee is proof that we all have the power to change the world. Her story begins in the West African nation of Liberia. Gbowee’s adolescent years were marked by civil war. As the First Liberian Civil War ended, she saw in her nation a need to address the lasting impacts of war. She participated in a UNICEF social work training program and began working to heal the traumatized country.
The fragile peace from the first civil war crumbled and war again broke out across Liberia, bringing with it systematic rape and recruitment of child soldiers. Gbowee continued to work on trauma-healing and became the leader of Liberia’s chapter of the Women in Peacebuilding Network. She saw that women and children fared the worst during the war, but saw this as an opportunity to bring women together to change the fate of Liberia.
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.” - Leymah Gbowee
Gbowee and her colleagues mobilized women across faiths, recruiting at Friday prayers and church meetings. The women of Liberia came together in nonviolent protest; they staged pray-ins and went on sex strikes, demanding high-level reconciliation. With growing pressure, talks finally began in Ghana, and Gbowee, along with hundreds of women, followed to make sure progress was actually made. They staged demonstrations while negotiations were taking place. When it seemed talks were not moving forward, the women moved inside the hotel where talks were being held. They made it clear they would not leave until an agreement was reached. Gbowee and the women of Liberia remained vigilant until the very end, with the adoption of a peace agreement marking the end of 14 years of war.
Gbowee was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, and today, continues her work as an activist for peace and gender equality. A true grassroots innovator, Leymah Gbowee should inspire us all to put on our paper crown and do our little bit to change the world.
Check out Leymah Gbowee's moving TED talk here!