Who would believe that 3000 women protesting in a fish market would end a civil war?
Through involving and organizing Liberia’s women, Leymah Gbowee and her supporters managed to put an end to the 14-year Liberian civil war. For this, Leymah became a 2011 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize! Leymah was a co-recipient along with Liberia’s first female elected president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen.
Leymah’s movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action of Peace, started with thousands of local women all dressed in white praying and singing in a fish market daily for months. Both Christian and Muslim women came together despite having differences of religion and class to make peace in the country. These women were tired of being terrorized by the LURD rebel group, which committed horrible crimes like killings and vicious acts of sexual violence. Much of the violence was directed at women.
The movement grew, and Leymah organized nonviolent protests and staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace, which forced the then-President to agree to hold peace talks in Ghana. When in Ghana, the Liberian women staged a sit-in outside of the residence, blocking all the doors and windows and preventing anyone from leaving the peace talks without a resolution. Had it not been for the persistence and courage of these women, the Liberian civil war might not have come to an end!
As Leymah herself says “I’m now on a journey to fulfill the wish, in my tiny capacity, of little African girls.”
Leymah’s exceptional story shows us that when many women stick together and work toward a common goal, anything is possible!
This post is written by Julie Brundtland, an intern for the Girl Up team in Summer 2013.