One of three 2011 Noble Peace Prize winners, Leymah Gbowee interviewed by Megan Smith. What makes this interview particularly interesting is through Leymah own personal history we begin to understand her journey from childhood to the strong powerful woman she is today – through domestic violence, being ostracized by her father and raising four children and the struggle for peace against the warlords of Liberia. She also puts the Liberian war into historical context, something which is often missing from news reports.
“Where do we start talking about the atrocities? We need to go back to 1822 and start that conversation because thats where everything started”
I have to say that I am proud to have met Leymah in Accra in 2010 at a workshop on militarisation in which the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell was screened. She is one hell of a special woman, none of the forked tongues of politicians and opportunitists. Leymah is real – a strong and powerful African woman. If you havent seen the film it will be showing on PBS on 18th October.
Leymah Gbowee is a “militant pacifist”, a “peace activist”, and a real mover and shaker. She is a woman who recognized that women had to organize, across all barriers and across all divisions, that women had to transform themselves and one another if they wanted to change the world. They had to learn to participate in peace negotiations, for example, by refusing the symbolic chairs and other morsels offered them, by confronting the materiel of war and violence with the human force of peace, compassion, and love. When the Big Men of Liberia met in Accra to negotiate “peace”, Gbowee and her sisters in white t-shirts raised a ruckus outside, and just about held the delegates hostage.
From the outset, Leymah Gbowee identified humanity as the site of her struggles and organizing. That means organizing structures, such as the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, followed by the Women In Peacebuilding Network, or WIPNET. From there, she has gone on to organize the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Ghana. Gbowee’s vision of women is African, from Cape to Cairo, and from coast to coast.
Peace and justice, child by child, person by person, space by space, and beyond. That’s what Leymah Gbowee has been organizing. That’s what is so difficult, if not impossible, to represent. That’s what The New York Times missed. But you don’t have to. On Tuesday, October 18, in the United States, PBS will broadcast the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about the work of Leymah Gbowee. Don’t miss it. It’s inspiring, as is its subject.