(New York Times) – Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women’s rights advocate. She shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, and the Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman.
Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia was somewhat synonymous with war. Stoking the existing tension among ethnic groups, military factions with power-hungry leaders unleashed an era of bitter internal conflict, coups d’état and uprisings during this period. Around 250,000 people died, and many more fled the country. When it was over, Liberia’s economic and political system was in ruins.
The war raged for 14 years; the period of peace that followed has now outlasted it. We could not have reached this point without the contribution of the country’s women, who used their voices and influence to win peace.
Civil war in Liberia took place in two bloody acts. The end of the First Liberian Civil War in 1996 and the election of Charles Taylor as president the following year did little to appease the country’s long history of sectarianism. In the Second Liberian Civil War, which began in 1999, numerous rebel groups rose up in opposition to Mr. Taylor’s regime. As the conflict spread, Liberia plunged into chaos. Women and children faced unprecedented levels of cruelty and displacement.