Today, I had the opportunity to hear Leymah Gbowee speak at my college. She is a Liberian peace activist and she has dedicated her life towards peacebuilding both globally as well as within her own community, specifically through women. She is incredibly inspiring, and I wanted to reflect on what I learned from some of her book, as well as her speech and a discussion with others later in the day.
First of all, the excerpts that I read of her book were incredible. She speaks honestly about her struggles with alcoholism and her separation from her kids, and the difficulties with balancing her job and her home life. Her writing is really honest and it was really easy to connect with her story because it made you feel like you were her close friend. She brought up the idea that war is often told only in one narrative voice- a man. She says that women are always seen as victims and parts of the background. She started a movement in Liberia later called the Liberia Mass Action for Peace in which hundred and eventually thousands of women together to peacefully protest the war in Liberia in 2003. Her book talked about the difficulties of continuing this movement, but it was an insanely important one. I think that anyone wanting to work in peace or even work globally should read her book because it is grounding and gives a lot of hope to those who read wanting to make a difference.
Her speech was incredibly inspiring because she brought up all these different stories of people she has encountered around the world and various organizations she is a part of, but she did so in a way that was so personable and inspiring. She made a comment that if you tiptoe through life, you are not leaving footsteps for people to follow, and it created a buzz and received a lot of applause. She recognized that a lot of people struggle with feeling like they are underqualified to make any difference, but she urges that you have to start somewhere, and you can even start small within your own community.
Lastly, a discussion with others about her life and the connections between faith and peace and women was empowering. Our talk included going over what is important to be a leader, which for us meant to work with your people, not for them. It also included the idea that in order to be passionate and seem genuine, you have to dedicate a lot of time to your cause, and we agreed that Gbowee has spent an incredible amount of time promoting peace. We also talked about the role of women and mothers in all this, and Gbowee, as well as our discussion group, noted that women are crucial to peace-building.
Overall, Gbowee was motivational and her words were very moving. She told everyone during her speech that they can go out and make a difference, and I think a lot of people left with a passion for creating change.