People that Inspire;Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee is the founder and the Executive Director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (Wispen-Africa). She had a great role in the Liberian Peace Process and the Women’s Leadership Board of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University awarded her the 2007 Blue Ribbon Award. Gbowee’s movement during the Liberia civil war is captured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The documentary shows how the women of Liberia managed to influence talks and events that ended the reign of Charles Taylor. It shows the power of women and particularly the potential of African women in pushing to peace. I met Leymah in Johannesburg at the Man Up campaign summit. What really amazed me was her threat to undress in front of those rebel leaders that were stalling the peace efforts in Accra Ghana. She did this as these rebel leaders together with Charles Taylor were commanding thousands of child soldiers who caused mayhem in Liberia.

I spoke to Leymah about a recent article by Foreign Policy which put Liberia among 60 failed states in the world. To me this was naïve knowing the progress the country has seen under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Leymah tells me Liberia has the toughest laws on violence against women and there’s a special court to tackle sexual offenses.

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