Leymah Gbowee – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women™

is elated and deeply moved to Celebrate the Life of this wealth of spirit, working her courage through every fiber of her body, for the sake of women and girls’ human rights through peace.

Her mission of peace tells our world;

“We are tired of war, we are tired of our children being raped, we are tired … “

 
 
 
 

WOMAN of ACTION™ 

 

leymah

 

Leymah Gbowee

 
 
 
Leymah Roberta Gbowee (born 1 February 1972) is a Liberian peace activist responsible for leading a women’s peace movement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Her efforts to end the war, along with her collaborator Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, helped usher in a period of peace and enabled a free election in 2005 that Sirleaf won. This made Liberia the first African nation to have a female president.

She, along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman, were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

At the age of 17, she was living with her parents and two of her three sisters in Monrovia, when the First Liberian Civil War erupted in 1989, throwing the country into bloody chaos until 1996.

Mighty-Be-Our-PowersAs the war subsided…. I learned about a program run by UNICEF,… training people to be social workers who would then counsel those traumatized by war,” wrote Gbowee in her 2011 memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers.

She did a three-month training, which led her to be aware of her own abuse at the hands of the father of her two young children, son Joshua “Nuku” and daughter “Amber”.

Searching for peace and sustenance for her family, Gbowee followed her partner, called Daniel in her memoir, to Ghana where she and her growing family (her second son, Arthur, was born) lived as virtually homeless refugees and almost starved.

She fled with her three children, riding a bus on credit for over a week “because I didn’t have a cent,” back to the chaos of Liberia, where her parents and other family members still lived.

Leymah Gbowee is a very famous Women’s Rights and Peace Activist, as well as philanthropist, most notable for her involvement in the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a women’s peace movement that was significant in bringing an end to the Second Liberian Civil war.

Leymah’s efforts in ending the civil war contributed greatly in ushering a new period of peace and democracy to the war torn nation, and enabled a free election that resulted in her friend and collaborator, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to become the very first woman president of Liberia, making the country the first African nation to have a woman president.

Leymah’s courage and determination to see the end of the war became a powerful voice throughout the world that her story was portrayed in “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, a documentary film by the famous producer-philanthropist Abigail Disney, which depicts the inspiring story of how the women in Liberia became catalysts for change.

The film received numerous awards and was praised by critics, especially the ones who led the peace movement, which Leymah is included in.

Nobel Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee – Amanpour

 

Leymah’s contribution in the end of the civil war earned her so much recognition that she became a recipient of the famous Nobel Peace Prize, along with her fellow activists Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman. The prize recognized their non-violent struggle for the safety and security of women in Liberia and their efforts in promoting women’s rights to fully participate in the peace-building work of the nation.

Aside from the Nobel Peace Prize, Leymah also received numerous other awards in recognition for her efforts in empowering the women in Africa and around the world to actively participate in the affairs of their nation.

One of the things that enabled Leymah to succeed in her efforts is her courage to fight for the things that she believes in. Many who know Leymah describe her to be a tough and determined woman who never backs down from reaching her goals. In fact, in spite of the threats and challenges that Leymah faces on a daily basis because of her work, she is never let down by them. She sees these obstacles as proof that her efforts are truly making an effective change.

She often states in interviews:

“I’m fortunate to go into communities and see the reality. I’m fortunate to go back to governments and tell them that reality, and I’m fortunate to go to the international level and say, ‘Whatever you think you’re doing is not touching this group of people.’”

leymah 2Although busy in her work as a peace activist, Leymah always finds time for her family.

In fact, it was because of an experience with her son that Leymah became determined to fight for the rights of her fellow women.

In an interview, Leymah related how it was her own children that inspire her to fight for the rights of women all across Africa and around the world:

“There was one incident when I heard my son say to my mother that he was afraid of his dad. I was angry at myself for allowing my children to see abuse. From that moment, I made a vow that I would protect them, and I would not be trapped. Even now, as we speak about women’s rights, I know that my daughters will benefit even if I don’t.

Every time I look around, that promise I made to my kids, ‘I will protect you,’ emboldens me.”

Another thing that is so inspiring about Leymah is her positive outlook in life. In spite of all the hardships that she had to live through, Leymah still has this amazing ability to look at the brighter side of life.

This optimistic attitude is one of the things that helped Leymah face the challenges and threatening situations that came across her path during the time when she was still leading the women’s peace movement.

In the film documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, Leymah is described as such:

“Gbowee comes across as a sharply strategic, scrappy, political maestro interfaith mobilizer of merriment. Not the balloons-confetti-cupcakes-clown-type fun, but rather solidarity-inspiring conviviality. You see women dancing, singing, smiling, wearing beautiful, white-as-doves clothing, and you even see laughter during sit-ins and protests.”

 

 

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades-old civil war. The women’s historic yet unsung achievement finds voice in a narrative that intersperses contemporary interviews, archival images, and scenes of present-day Liberia together to recount the experiences and memories of the women who were instrumental in bringing lasting peace to their country.

resized_1On October 11th, 2011 at 10:00 PM EST, PBS launched a special series on Women, War and Peace. Women, War & Peace is a bold new five-part PBS mini-series challenging the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain.

The second program in the series, on October 18 will be the broadcast of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, airing for the first time on U.S. television. A production of THIRTEEN and Fork Films in association with WNET and ITVS, Women, War & Peace places women at the center of an urgent dialogue about conflict and security and reframes our understanding of modern warfare.

Featuring narrators Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Geena Davis and Alfre Woodard, the series reveals how the post-Cold War proliferation of small arms has changed the landscape of war, with women becoming primary targets and suffering unprecedented casualties. Simultaneously, they are emerging as necessary partners in brokering lasting peace and as leaders in forging new international laws governing conflict.

LiberianWomenFor a complete schedule of events, visit HERE.

Of all of Leymah’s very inspiring qualities, it is her faith in God that she says is the thing that has kept her going throughout her entire career.

Leymah is a devout Christian, and has no problems in publicly declaring her faith in her Lord Jesus Christ.

She often tells how without the grace of God operating in her life, she would most probably have never been able to do the things that she did.

She states in an interview:

My courage comes from my faith. I have come to one conclusion: All that I am, all that I aspire to be, all that I was before, is by the grace of God. There are so many women in Africa, and outside Africa, who are more intelligent than I am.”

Being an active advocate for women’s rights and peace, Leymah often goes overseas to speak at conventions or meetings to present her ideas and stories. Despite of all the fame she has received, she never forgets to get humble and always remember the Lord as the one who made all things possible for Leymah.

In an interview made with Leymah, she said:

“When I go to the United States — I’ve been to quite a few schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn—I know there are issues, things that make people say, ‘You need to speak up. And speak up real loud.’ But first and foremost is my faith. Every time, before I’m going to speak, I say a prayer. I feel like this is a ministry.”

ptdbthLeymah never stops fighting for her goal of achieving a bright future for her country.

Even now, she still actively participates in the government’s efforts in maintaining the peaceful state of the nation.

Leymah also goes around the world, speaking at various meetings, encouraging and empowering women all throughout the world to do their part in society.

But whenever she is asked what keeps her doing what she is doing, she always answers: ” …by the Grace of God”.

Receiving acclaim, yet struggling personally

During 2006-07 Gbowee also began talking with Ekiyor and Ecoma Alaga (a Nigerian, like Ekiyor) about splitting WIPNET from WANEP, believing the parent organization to be controlled financially by men and wanting the three of them to be fully in charge. The founding director of WANEP, Gbowee’s old friend Sam Gbaydee Doe, was sympathetic to the three women’s desire for structural independence, but he had left WANEP to pursue a PhD in England.

WANEP was now led by another graduate of the MA in conflict transformation program at EMU, Emmanuel Bombande of Ghana, who did not agree that the three women owned the WIPNET branch of WANEP and thus would not let it spin off.

As a result, Gbowee and her two colleagues started a new organization, Women in Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN), also based in Accra, Ghana.” Abigail Disney stepped up to help Gbowee raise funds for launching WIPSEN among philanthropists in New York, enabling her to secure $50,000 in seed money.

By the time Gbowee finished her coursework at EMU on April 30, 2007, and returned to her children in Liberia in May 2007 – where her parents had been caring for them – she realized that her nine months away “nearly broke all of us.”

In Virginia, she had lived with “a cold that never went away” and she “felt panic, sadness, and cold, swirling blackness” as she faced “being sued by former friends at WANEP over our desire to move in a new direction.” Her impending graduate degree (conferred at the end of 2007), growing fame, and other changes in her life strained the relationship she had with a Liberian man named Tunde, an employee of international agencies who had functioned as a father figure for her children for a decade, from the early period of the Liberian women’s peace movement through Gbowee’s graduate studies at EMU (for which he had paid the tuition). They broke up and by early 2008 Gbowee was in a relationship with a Liberian information technology expert whom she identifies as James. He is the father of her sixth child, a daughter named Jaydyn Thelma Abigail (nicknamed “Nehcopee”), born in New York City in June 2009.

africa_montageIn April 2008, when Gbowee’s family and friends gathered to celebrate the 14th birthday of her eldest daughter, Amber, it was clear that Gbowee had developed a serious alcohol problem. In her memoir, Gbowee explains that she had turned to alcohol for about a decade to cope with the loneliness of constant separations from her family, the strain of poverty and war-engendered trauma, and the stress of never-ending demands on her time.

During Amber’s birthday party, Gbowee’s children noted that she drank 14 glasses of wine. The next day she passed out. When again conscious, suffering from an ulcer, she begged James to take her to the doctor: “Then I saw the kids gathered around us, their terrified, helpless faces. After all their losses, this would be the final one. No. Not possible. It might sound too easy, but that was the end for me. I still don’t sleep easily and I still wake up too early, but I don’t drink anymore.”

Gbowee’s exposure to the New York philanthropic social set, facilitated by Disney (who had become a close friend), appeared to open the door for a series of awards. The first, from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, came in early 2006, and then they began to arrive in accelerated fashion: recognition by Women’s eNews, the Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award, the Living Legends Award for Service to Humanity, and several more.

In July 2011, EMU announced that Gbowee had been named its “Alumna of the Year.” (Gbowee’s eldest son, Joshua “Nuku” Mensah, entered EMU as a freshman in 2010, overlapping by one year with Sam Gbaydee Doe’s eldest daughter, Samfee Doe, then a senior.) The crowning honor came in October 2011 when the Norwegian Nobel Committee made Gbowee one of three female recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Back in 2009, during an address to a group of students who attended an EMU chapel, Leymah said:

“I didn’t get there by myself, or anything I did as an individual… but it was by the grace and mercy of God. He has held my hands. In the most difficult of times, he has been there. As I continue this journey in this life, I remind myself: ‘All that I am, all that I hope to be, is because of God.”

 
 
 
Nominated by Pee Jay at The Xtraordinary

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A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this human force with open arms into our global alumni, and celebrate her work through this tribute, looking forward to achieving world peace through the dignity of women, together.

 
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Brava Leymah!

 

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