Leymah Roberta Gbowee, b.1972
Liberian peace activist known for rallying women to pressure leaders into ending Liberia’s civil
war. She was one of three recipients, along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karmān, of
the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, for their nonviolent efforts to further the safety and rights of women
and their participation in peace-building processes.
Moved to action by the pain and suffering that she witnessed, Gbowee mobilized women of
various ethnic and religious backgrounds to protest against Liberia’s ongoing conflict. The group
became known as the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, and demonstrated against the war by
fasting, praying, and picketing at markets and in front of government buildings. Dressed in white
and present in great numbers, day after day, the women were difficult to ignore.
Gbowee was eventually granted a meeting with Liberia’s president, Charles Taylor, and pressed
for peace. In 2003 Taylor and Liberia’s opposing factions attended peace talks in Ghana that
were organized by international parties in an attempt to bring an end to the Liberian conflict.
Gbowee followed the Liberian leaders to Ghana, where she led a group of hundreds of women
in surrounding the meeting place. They refused to let Taylor and the other leaders leave until an
agreement was reached.
Religion influenced Leymah’s approach to peacebuilding as a type of mothering. In fact,
Gbowee engages the often marginalized voices of women and young men who bear the brunt
of war. Gbowee has used religion to achieve many of her activist roles throughout her traveling
career and teaching in healing spaces. An important role that she and other powerful women
such as Ekiyor, used religion as a support tool to mother those who have been traumatized,
searching for peace within their communities, their homes, and their country.
There are many photographs of Leymah available. She radiates a powerful energy as if she has
the energy of several people within her. I am inspired every time I read about her determination
based on her compassion. I will leave you with this quote:
“… we believe, as custodians of society, tomorrow our children will ask us, “Mama, what was
your role during the crisis?”