Last Friday, Vital Voices welcomed internationally-renowned Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee. She talked about her experiences mobilizing Muslim and Christian women to stand up for peace in Liberia, and about how to identify and approach conflicts in our own communities.
Through Leymah’s work with Liberia Mass Action for Peace, she “crossed the lines that divide” in getting President Charles Taylor and rebel leaders to reach a negotiated peace in 2003. She is a strong believer in the power of actions and what someone does as a person, rather than what their name or religious belief conveys. “When I look at [my colleagues], I don’t see a Muslim – I see a woman,” she said. Leymah’s call to action is “There’s work to be done. Roll up your sleeves.”
“If we want a revolution, we need a space for dialogue,” Leymah said. Looking back, the Liberian Mass Action for Peace movement was not a day job; it became a family, a community of women. The power of grassroots organizations and mobilizing the community around women’s issues can be transformative. “When a group of powerful women come together, the power is even more,” she noted.
Leymah is currently on a tour through the U.S. to promote her book, Mighty Be Our Powers. Its early accolades are mounting:
“Leymah bore witness to the worst of humanity and helped bring Liberia out of the dark. Her memoir is a captivating narrative that will stand in history as testament to the power of women, faith and the spirit of a great country.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia
“Mighty Be Our Powers reminds us that even in the worst of times, humanity’s best can shine through.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1984
“… a beautifully written narrative.” – Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women
Today, she delivered a keynote talk at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Check out: Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a documentary by Abigail Disney about the Liberian struggle for peace.
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Zita de Pooter is an intern with the Online Communications department at Vital Voices.