How Liberian Women Organized a Sex Strike and Helped End a War
Leymah Gbowee is an extraordinarily determined and visionary leader who organized the women of Liberia to put an end to the catastrophic rule of former President Charles Taylor. Since Inclusive Security began working with her more than a decade ago, she has become an exemplar within our Women Waging Peace Network of the more than 2,000 women putting their lives on the line to stop ruinous conflict.
Gbowee’s grassroots organizing paved the way for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female president in Africa and a global symbol of women’s ability to stabilize nations recovering from war. President Johnson Sirleaf described herself first as a technocrat, taking leadership of one of the most corrupt nations on earth. But she added that as “Ma Ellen,” she nurtures her people, and as a grandmother, she looks to the future.
Inclusive Security celebrated with peacebuilders worldwide when, in 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
In bestowing this award, The Nobel Committee shined a light on the essential work of women in preventing and stopping war across the globe. Inclusive Security joins the Nobel Committee in recognizing the importance of women’s leadership in achieving lasting security. For the past decade, we’ve promoted this sea change in who makes decisions about war and peace.
Both Nobel Prize–winning members of the Women Waging Peace Network achieved their success by mobilizing large constituencies and bridging religious and ethnic divides. Gbowee brought together hundreds of Muslim and Christian women from across Liberia to pressure warring parties to negotiate peace. The award-winning film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” documents her story. It is part of PBS’s Women, War & Peace series.
Gbowee’s political organizing contributed to the record number of women who registered to vote, helping Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to victory in 2006. Since taking office, Sirleaf has advanced economic and social development and promoted national reconciliation. She has been a part of the Women Waging Peace Network since it was founded in 1999.
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