Leymah Gbowee (1972-present) is most famous for her role in
leading women in peaceful protests against the war in Liberia.
These protests contributed to bringing peace to Liberia. She is also a qualified counsellor who has worked to support children who were soldiers.
14 July 2020, Laura Webb
Leymah Gbowee was born in 1972 in Monrovia the capital of Liberia. She wanted to become a doctor, but when she finished school in 1989 the Liberian Civil War began and she couldn’t go to university.
Because of the war, Gbowee’s family and many others went to a church to stay safe. But government soldiers came to the church and held everyone hostage. Gbowee’s uncle persuaded the soldiers to release Gbowee and her family. They were lucky, because the next day (29 July 1990) the soldiers killed almost everyone in the church, more than 600 people died. After what happened in the church, Gbowee was angry with God and angry with society.
Gbowee trained and became a counsellor. She worked in Monrovia, counselling young people who had been child soldiers.
In 1997, the First Liberian Civil War ended and Charles Taylor became president but in 1999 the Second Liberian Civil War began. Many people were being tortured, mutilated and killed because of the civil war. Gbowee joined the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) and quickly became leader.
One night, she had a dream. In the dream she heard a voice telling her to do something to stop the war. She got together with a few other women from her church and they made a small protest group. Over time their group grew and joined with a group of Muslim women. The group was called Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. In the group there were women of different ethnic and religious groups who wanted peace in Liberia. They wore white and protested peacefully.
One day, Gbowee took Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace took a group of over 2500 women to see President Charles Taylor. President Taylor said he would only meet with 10 of the women, but Gbowee made him come outside and see them all. At the meeting she said to him “We are tired of running, we are tired of war, we are tired of begging for bulgar wheat, we are tired of our children being raped.”
In 2003 there were peace talks in Ghana. Peace talks are meetings when leaders meet to agree how to end a war. Gbowee and other members of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace went to protest outside the meeting building in Ghana. After protesting for months, they were running out of food and money, they needed the peace talks and the war to end. They made a circle around the building where the meeting was taking place. They said that no one could come out until they had a peace agreement. Security guards came to stop them, they wanted to arrest Gbowee. She told them that if they arrested her then she would take off all her clothes, then she began to undress. The security guards were horrified and went away. Three weeks later the peace agreement was signed and the civil war ended.
In 2011 Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize for involving women in peace- building.
Gbowee continues to work for peace, she is the founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation African which works to ensure “that younger generations in Liberia are peaceful, reconciled, and empowered.”
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