In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and emphasizing the importance of being prepared for a professional world, LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) welcomed Angie Cruz on October 31st in the E-building’s Poolside Café. Ms. Cruz, who previously visited the campus in 2017, is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, writer of short stories and […]
The ninth annual Women in the World Summit could not have started stronger than with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, who spearheaded the powerful event on April 12th at the David H. Koch Theater in New York City.
Ms. Gbowee is the woman responsible for ending Liberia’s 14-year Civil War in 2003 bringing together Muslim and Christian women across the country to stand up against the notorious warlord, Charles Taylor, who was also then the president. In a discussion with CBS news anchor Norah O’Donnell, she spoke about how the women’s insurgence that overthrew a bloodstained dictator created social change, and how such a movement can make a difference even in the United States.
In April 2003, the war in Liberia was getting worse prompting Mrs. Gbowee to organize a movement leading the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, where women would dress all in white symbolizing peace that contradicted their military-centered society. Women marched holding signs that said: “Liberian women need peace now!” Later, she led another strike where women refused to have sex with their husbands until the war came to an end. The sex strike added fuel to their activism, and as a result, Taylor resigned and was later sentenced to 50 years in prison for his war crimes. In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War.
Ms. Gbowee mentioned that while Muslim women are seen as “very calm, cool, collected,” they were the ones who came up with the idea of the sex strike, and made it a form of revolution for peace. She said that the inclusion of religious groups, which involved 60 ethnic and religious assemblies, played an essential role in the success of the women’s movement in Liberia. She pointed out how a predator that has the intention to rape does not discriminate among his victims based on religious or ethnic groups, and how the women who initally formed the movement understood that.
In part to foster interreligious unison, Ms. Gbowee stressed how crucial it is to put faces and names to a successful movement. She once stood in front of Taylor and spoke to him demanding change. She was also the frontrunner in every rally.
“When I worked with the women, one of the things that I realized made our movement successful is that I showed up first, and I was the last to leave. In places and spaces where they did not expect me to show up, I came there. I understood the struggle,” Ms. Gbowee said.
By making herself known to the public, with the knowledge that by doing so she would be risking her life, and that of her family, she created chaos forcing the government, news organizations worldwide, and others to acknowledge her personally, and her movement for peace.
In this country [the United States] today, it’s not difficult to start a movement,” Ms. Gbowee said. “[But] people are still sleeping in their beds comfortably. They’re still talking to the TV.
Ms. Gbowee bemoaned the lethargic activism of people who choose to sit behind computers and use fake names or avatars to express their form of “social activism.”
In spite of that, the laureate has not lost her faith, and still believes that change is already happening.
When she saw the “March For Our Lives” demonstration on television on March 24th in Washington D.C., she was so delighted to see that many young people participated in the movement that it made her do an African dance in celebration.
Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School happened, student survivors have spoken out making several media appear-ances promoting increased gun control in the country. As a mother of eight, when Ms. Gbowee first heard about the shooting, she was devastated and found herself crying.
“I have so much respect for the Parkland children because while they are using social media, they are telling their leaders that ‘We’re bringing it back home to you.’ And that’s what activism is about. And that’s what doing a revolution is about. And that’s what making change is about,” she said.
In her concluding talk during the summit, the Nobel Peace laureate reflected how great leadership brought about change in Liberia, and how she had seen what is possible when young people showed their activism by marching in the streets, imploring change and holding the government accountable for gun control policy.
Ms. Gbowee recalled how in her travels, she has seen many women around the world that show what real leadership is, and said, “a leader is that person who is selfless.”
“A leader is [someone] who really and truly decides, ‘We’re doing this, and we will never rest until we see it come to an end,'” she added.