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How to Start a Movement

Liberian activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee launched a movement that toppled a dictatorship and ended a 14-year civil war. How did she do it? By bringing women into the peace process.


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Elmira Bayrasli: Welcome to Opinion Has It. I’m Elmira Bayrasli. In 1989, civil war broke out in Liberia. Fighting and instability ravaged the West African country for the next 14 years.

Archive recording: A quarter of a million people lay dead and millions had fled into neighboring countries.

EB: Men were on the front lines of Liberia’s civil wars, but it was a woman who led the effort to end the fighting.

Archive recording, Leymah Gbowee: The women of Liberia are serious about peace. And we will continue our activities until we have peace.

EB: Leymah Gbowee brought together Muslim and Christian women to stage protests and sit-ins across the country. In 2002, she confronted Liberia’s president, Charles Taylor, telling him that Liberia’s women were sick and tired of the fighting, hunger, and rape. After a peace agreement was signed in August 2003, Leymah set out to help rebuild Liberia and rehabilitated people.

Sarah Jewell, Leymah Gbowee’s assistant: We’re heading to the fifth floor.

EB: In 2006, she co-founded the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, which promotes women’s participation and leadership in peace and security governance. And in 2011, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Leymah Gbowee: I would want to do pictures, is it video?