Liberian Peace Activist and Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
At only 17 years old when the Liberian civil war broke out, Leymah Gbowee would grow up to lead a women peace movement that pressured warring factions and political leaders to end the senseless killings that characterized the Liberian conflict.
Nothing more symbolized Gbowee’s commitment to ending the war than what she and other Liberian women did in June 2003, when leaders of the various factions met in Ghana to discuss ending hostilities. The women she led demonstrated daily outside the hotel where the peace talks were being held. According to Gbowee in her book, “Mighty Be Our Powers,” when it seems like the talks were deadlocked, the women “dropped down, in front of the glass door that was the main entrance to the meeting room,” and held signs saying, “Butchers and murderers of the Liberian people — STOP!” She then passed a message to the former Nigerian Military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was mediating the talks, saying that the women would lock arms and remain seated in the hallway, virtually holding the delegates “hostage,” until they reached a peace agreement.
The women’s pressure produced the desired result. Participants in the talks came up with the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement on August 18, 2003, that laid the foundation for ending the Liberian conflict and put in place plans for retuning the country to democratic rule that culminated with the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of Liberia in 2005.
For her work in promoting peace and women’s participation in the Liberian political process, Gbowee was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2011 along with her fellow Liberian, President Johnson-Sirleaf, and Yemeni political activist, Tawakkol Karman.