2011 Nobel Peace Prize-winner for leading a non-violent women’s movement to end the civil war in Liberia.
Leymah Gbowee was born in 1972 in Monrovia, Liberia, which at the time was one of the most modern and sophisticated cities in West Africa. Growing up Leymah dreamed of being a doctor and in 1990, after graduating from high school, she planned to enrol in the University of Liberia to study medicine. But that same year, rebel soldiers from Cote d'Ivoire, led by Charles Taylor, moved into Liberia to overthrow Liberian President Samuel Doe.
Doe was a corrupt and violent leader who had sharply divided the Liberian population along tribal identities. As Taylor and his men advanced toward Monrovia, thousands of people became displaced and were victims of rape, looting, and violence by both government and rebel soldiers.
As the situation in Liberia deteriorated, Leymah and her family fled Liberia to a refugee camp in Ghana. In 1991 there was a break in the fighting and she returned to Liberia. she began working with women in the rural communities who had suffered the worst acts of violence during the war as well as with ‘Taylor’s Boys,’ the children that Taylor’s men had abducted and forced to become child soldiers.
Outraged by the senseless violence, Leymah became a leading voice for an end to the war.
She worked with Christian and Muslim women to set up the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement. Thousands of women protested in Monrovia wearing white and demanding peace. The women also blockaded stalled peace talks in Ghana until an agreement was signed. Taylor resigned and went into exile in Nigeria, and Leymah Gbowee's work smoothed the path for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's election as Africa's first female head of state.
She continues her work in peace and conflict resolution as the leader of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, Executive Director of Women, Peace and Security Network Africa, and a member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Leymah Gbowee has been a member of PeaceJam since 2012.