Leymah Gbowee Recalls Decade of Advocating for Women’s Right in Liberia
Monrovia — In a rare show of peaceful co-existence, Madam Leymah Gbowee and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Friday resolved their deep-rooted differences and vowed to work together in the interest of peace and development.
The breakthrough came after Gbowee, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Award alongside Johnson-Sirleaf, invited the former Liberian president to celebrate her 10th anniversary since she won the prestigious accolade.
At the program, Sirleaf and Gbowee embraced each other and described the moment as “historic”, promising to work together.
Sirleaf said her presence at the program was to show to the world that she and Gbowee have smoked peace pipe.
“To Leymah, the last thing you said to me was that if I did not attend, the people would think we are still fussing, so you all can see that we are not fussing, that peace has reached between the two of us. Our only fuss is to those who don’t protect the women,” said Johnson-Sirleaf.
Sirleaf acknowledged the role played by Gbowee during the peak of the country’s 14-year civil war in which she championed peace through the Gbowee Peace Foundation, which Sirleaf said, paved the way for her presidency in 2005.
“Indeed, we may not have been able to see the peace in our country, for us to have had democratic elections for me to become president of Liberia. Gbowee and the women of Liberia laid the foundation for peace before my election as president of Liberia,” Sirleaf said.
Continuing, she added: “Therefore, today we should dispel the notion that women don’t support women. The example we see today is glaring, women from all walks of life are here today to recognize Leymah and women of Liberia.”
Gbowee: “I haven’t abandoned the women”
Gbowee used the occasion to dispel rumors that she has abandoned women of her organization since she scooped the award.
“I have been accused by many of abandoning the women of Liberia who were in the struggle with me to bring peace to Liberia, but sadly those people don’t know the true story,” Gbowee said.
“When God gets ready to bless you; he never puts you on Facebook. So, I won’t do my act of kindness in public. We have personally contributed to the funerals of many of the women; we have also helped some of them who have been sicked by sending them to doctors. And we feel strongly that these interventions are not sustainable, so today, I am establishing the Veteran Women fund to help cater to these women”.
She added: “From now to December 10, 2021, the women will have an account of approximately US$100,000, but today we are starting with an initial deposit of US$15,000.”
Gbowee also memorialized three hundred names of living and fallen members of the Women of Liberia Mass Action, on a wall and a space she intendeds to use as a park, where women can have as their own space.
“As a mark of respect for my troop – the women of Liberia and to the ones who stood in the sun and rain, and sacrificed their daily existence for this nation, I Lemah Roberta Gbowee, first female General in the Army for Peace in the Republic of Liberia, have memorialized these women. I know this is small, but today we are going to unveil 300 names.” She said.
Explaining the genesis of the group, Gbowee explained that she was encouraged by a Sierra Leonean counterpart to head the Liberian Women in Peace Building network, saying:
“Yes, I worked with ex-fighters but I was scared of the women of Liberia and stories I had heard, so, I said I could not make it but Sugars pulled me into her room, and with tears running from her eyes she held my hands and told me to take the post, and she was going to back me up. And we started WIPNET and Sugars became my mentor, my correction fluid and my teacher,” she said.
“I am going to honor Atweeda Sugars Cooper today. Sugars, I have gone ten years after I received the Nobel Peace prize, I know it is late, but not too late to say thank you for your mentorship,” she said.
“Thank you for remaining in the shallow and allowing me to shine and be the face to show on television shows, not many people would have done what you did, so I say thank you.” Gbowee added.
Gbowee said they recruiting women for the mass action, especially unemployed women who were bereaved from the civil war.
“We decided never again to sit back and allow our families to suffer the vices of civil war. People were ready to fight for war, we were prepared to fight for peace. The war had taught me that the best way to deal with fear was to have courage.”
At this point of her speech, the Mass action women, many dressed in their Blue and White Lappa and white T-shirts, stood up and raised one of their familiar songs while dancing to its rhythm, “We want peace, no more war, we want peace ooo, no more war” and everybody joined in and sang the song.
“We demonstrated for months until the violence ended. Our army of women is now well recognized and they are well respected around the world. We are in museums we will never go, the ranks have been defined,” she said.
Women, men from every walk of life, including female justices, lawyers, pastors, teachers, as well as the Armed Forces of Liberia personnel graced the program.