Monday, October 10, 2011

If You Want Freedom, Keep Walking...

Leymah Gbowee hails from the central part of Liberia and trained as a trauma counselor in her early twenties. Though she counseled many child soldiers that had fought for Charles Taylor in the civil war, she also heard the laments of the local market women whose businesses depended on a thriving city. When civil war came to Monrovia, shutting down the infrastructure of the city, the livelihood of these businesses were severely compromised. Tired of the countless raping of women and destruction of families, she acted on her passion for change.

Her story is inspiring. While I am not a feminist and not particularly pleased with the intrinsic support of many widely known feminists that have attached themselves to the coattail of Ms. Gbowee's unheeded fame, I do commend her spirit of survival and fight as she contended for the safety and peace of the children in the Liberia. My fear is that this brave and timely decision to fight Taylor and his warlords in order to bring peace to her country will be stripped of its significance by internationallizing it. When you steer away from the cultural significance of such valor as displayed by Leymah Gbowee, you diminish some of its value.

"This is not a traditional war story," Gbowee, 39, wrote in her autobiography "Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War".

"It is about an army of women in white standing up when no one else would - unafraid because the worst things imaginable had already happened to us. It is about how we found the moral clarity, persistence, and bravery to raise
our voices against war and restore sanity to our land." (Agence France-Presse)

 Trailer for the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell

*Bill Moyer's commentary on the Liberian peace movement and interview with Gbowee, click HERE.

Security forces attempted to arrest her for obstructing justice, one warlord tried to push and kick the women away, and Gbowee threatened to strip naked in public, seen as a powerful curse in West Africa. 
 (Agence France-Press)

Ms. Gbowee's reaction after winning the Nobel Peace Prize

"Rape was the toy of war. On a daily basis, women were being raped. Young children were being abducted and sent into the army. Children were taken in the night, the next morning they were taught how to fire an AK-47, and then they went to war the following day! Women were the single heads of the family." (Agence France-Presse)

I am convinced that the men of Liberia must now walk in tandem with these courageous women and make crucial impacts in their own God-given roles in Liberia. However, the impact of these brave mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters of Liberia during a time where war threatened to break the very spine of Liberia's precious society, should never be forgotten. In a culture where the value of women is in no way esteemed as it is in America, Leymah Gbowee's powerful push back in the face of the debilitating Liberian Civil War, was simply remarkable.

Gbowee has just published her memoirs called Mighty Be Our Powers. More information about the book and Ms. Gbowee can be found on her website.