Tuesday, January 22, 2013
A Mighty Peace
Between 1999 and 2003 a bloody war raged in Liberia. It erupted after only a few years of peace following the first Liberian civil war which spanned between 1989 and 1996. The second outbreak of violence is thought to have been a reorganization and a resurgence of many of the same factions which contributed to the original conflict. A small number of powerful men with competing claims to power and wealth who used their resources to divide and subjugate the population of Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. While the United Nations did become involved in negotiations, the conflict proved to be beyond the intervention of the usual diplomatic strategies.
Leymah Gbowee observed that in war-time it is often the women who suffer most, and it was based on that understanding that she founded the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement. Their demonstrations began in 2003 with mass sit-ins in a fish market where thousands of women spent days singing and praying. The group refused to abide the violence that had strangled Liberia for so long, and it was based on their efforts that Charles Taylor (then president) was made to agree to attend peace-talks. Once the talks began women from the same movement blocked entrances and exist to the presidential palace forcing the continuation of negotiations until a resolution was reached.
In 2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female president of an African country with the support of Gbowee who had mobilized an enormous political force on behalf of peace in Liberia. Her fearless leadership and her refusal to accept any alternative to peace were essential to the resolution of a bloody war which victimized many, particularly women, and her memoir Mighty be Our Powers is the story of those women; who transformed themselves from the voiceless victims of war to a silent, immovable force which destroyed the influence of so many battling war lords. Women who decided unanimously that peace was the only option and accepted no substitute.
In 2011 she and other leaders of the movement including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and on February 14th we we celebrate her incredible accomplishments by discussing her book. Please join us in the Heritage Room on the third floor at 7:30 PM for our evening book club. Copies of Mighty be Our Powers are available to rent from the third floor Readers' Services Desk; even if you don't have time to read, we'd love for you to stop by to discuss this remarkable story of triumph. Truly though, there is nobody better to inspire you to pick up this book than Gbowee herself, so please check out this clip of some of the ideas she shared during a TED talk in March of last year.