She is nicknamed “Peace activist” She prefers correct over the time: “I am just a girl of the field who now have a world platform to express myself.”
Leymah Gbowee was a Peace Nobel Prize co-winner in 2011.
She was born in 1972. At the age of 18 years old, she witnessed the civil war in Liberia. In 1989, the troops of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor, started spreading terror in the country.
At that time, she was a young brilliant school girl coming from a modest family who had only a dream: become a pediatrician. There was neither tap water anymore nor electricity: the country was destroyed.
For lack of doing her homework, she rather attended exactions, murders, sexual violences, plunders … Her vision of life will not be any more the same. In 2012, she published the narrative of her life at Belfond “Mighty Be Our Powers”. “I wanted to write an honest book that gives the real image of African woman”
“Each of us in this country was a victim (…) Each of us needs to be cured. (…) You tell your story and you survive. You exceed your victim’s status and you feel the need to help. But not only a person: the whole society!”
For lack of being able to become a doctor, she became a social worker thanks to a program of Unicef. She treated victims of the war: women victims of sexual violences and children transformed into soldiers by Taylor’s militias.
Personally, she was not saved. She has four children with an alcoholic, violent and unfaithful man. Her faith helped her. She is a member of Lutheran Church. “Faith is in the center of my identity. All that I do is the work of God” She declared to the Catholic weekly magazine “La vie” (Life): “Church has a central role to play. It has to fight for justice and peace and speak in favor of the poorest more firmly so that the fundamental human rights are respected (…) Christian Churches really have an extraordinary opportunity in the current context, because political men and women address ecclesial leaders when things go badly. But in Liberia, they receive subsidies from the power, presents and, in this context, it is difficult for them to have freedom of speech.”
In 2000, Leymah Gbowee founded Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), women’s organization for peace keeping in West Africa.
Two years later, she launched a new pacifist movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a protest movement based on prayer and sex strike.
Thanks to her action, Charles Taylor was forced to associate women to the peace negotiations before being pushed to exile, and then condemned by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for 50 years of imprisonment.
In 2011, it was the international gratitude: she received Peace Nobel prize with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the current Liberian president, “to have mobilized and organized women beyond ethnical and religious barriers in order to end up with a long war in Liberia and assure women participation to elections”.
“This reward gave me some more work; I do not risk being unemployed at once! (…) When you receive this prize, you are invited talk everywhere and of anything. If you ask me to make a commitment on matters – even very important – as nuclear disarmament, I shall not sign, because I estimate not to have enough knowledge on the subject. I go only where women right needs to be defended”.
Leymah Gbowee did not end up with her fight for women. She is convinced that: “women do not play enough leading role at international level while their action for peace and justice is considerable. Media have to grant more importance to the work of feminine communities”.
And her current slogan that she expressed in her book is always the same: “Hardworking: when the immensity of what remains to carry out discourages me, I turn to these women who fight everyday: they do not give up and for them, we are a symbol of hope. You too, you should move forward. You have no reason to give up.”