Nobel winner Leymah Gbowee speaks out on peace, women, and leadership
Leymah Gbowee's Women Peace and Security Network Africa came out of her confrontation with Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. Now she's sharing this year's Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen's Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman.
Leymah Gbowee, one of this year's three women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, knows how to get a message across.Skip to next paragraph
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In 2002, in the midst of Liberia's second civil war, she helped organize more than 3,000 Christian and Muslim women to peacefully protest the conflict. The women also vowed to stop having sex with their husbands until the violence ceased.
The creative, public demonstrations led to a meeting with Liberia's then-president and warlord, Charles Taylor. In response, he committed to opening peace talks with the rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, in Ghana. The war ended in 2003, the same year Mr. Taylor was exiled and indicted with war crimes by the Special Court of Sierra Leone.
In an in-person interview at the United Nations headquarters in New York in June 2010, Gbowee discussed the impacts of allowing women to have substantial roles in conflict, post-conflict, peace, and reconciliation talks and in decisionmaking bodies. She also explained why women around the world still remain largely unrepresented in these processes.
Monitor: How did your experiences in Liberia push you to go on to work in Ghana and other countries? What are your main objectives?
Gbowee: After working with the women in Liberia for a number of years, I realized that peace building, peace activism, and women’s role in that process was where I wanted to be. It was a calling for me.
But also I had gotten to that place in Liberia, especially as it relates to grass-roots movements, where I needed to step out of that space and gain greater experience, because my thinking was getting a little bit too local. Two colleagues and I decided to start a regional women’s peace and security organization.... [Because of] restrictions, and donors, we needed countries that were stable, have frequent flights, and all of those requirements made Ghana the most suitable place for us to settle….
Currently, our work is set structurally around three thematic issues: gender in the security sector and reform process, rural women peace and security initiatives, and youth security and development initiatives.
One of those areas I find myself being pulled to more is working in the area of youth, security, and development, specifically with the young girls’ leadership projects.
What are the greatest tangible benefits to having women be directly involved in political processes?