Celebrating Twenty One Years

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Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee

2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

"You can tell people 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

Leymah Gbowee was born in 1972 in Monrovia, Liberia, which at the time was one of the most modern and sophisticated cities in West Africa. Growing up, Gbowee dreamed of being a doctor, and in 1990, after graduating from high school, planned to enroll in the University of Liberia to study medicine. But that same year, rebel soldiers from Cote d'Ivoire, led by Charles Taylor, moved into Liberia to overthrow Liberian President Samuel Doe. Doe was a corrupt and violent leader who had sharply divided the Liberian population along tribal identities. As Taylor and his men advanced toward Monrovia, thousands of people became displaced and were victims of rape, looting, and violence by both government and rebel soldiers. As the situation in Liberia deteriorated, Gbowee and her family fled  Liberia to a refugee camp in Ghana.

In 1991 there was a break in the fighting and Gbowee returned to Liberia. Gbowee began working with women in the rural communities who had suffered the worst acts of violence during the war; as well as with “Taylor’s Boys,” who where the children Taylor’s men had abducted and forced to become child soldiers. Outraged by the senseless violence, Gbowee became a leading voice for an end to the war. Gbowee's outreach to Christian and Muslim women led to the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement. Thousands of women protested in Monrovia wearing white and demanding peace. The women also blockaded stalled peace talks in Ghana until an agreement was signed. Taylor resigned and went into exile in Nigeria, and Gbowee's work smoothed the path for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's election as Africa's first female head of state.

Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her efforts to end the civil war in Liberia. Gbowee continues her work in peace and conflict resolution as the leader of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, Executive Director of Women, Peace and Security Network Africa, and a member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.  Gbowee has been a member of PeaceJam since 2012.

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