May 16, 2012
DALLAS (SMU) — Heroic Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee will be at SMU May 23 to discuss “Women, Leadership and Human Rights.” As one of only a handful of U.S. speaking engagements, Gbowee’s visit will be a rare opportunity to hear her discuss her unprecedented role in helping end Liberia’s second civil war as well as her advice on how women can bring about change in seemingly hopeless situations.
The program, set for 7:30–9 p.m. at SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater, 3140 Dyer St., is presented by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Dallas/Fort Worth in partnership with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the Embrey Family Foundation, the Boone Family Foundation, Donna Wilhelm and Trea Yip.
Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for WAC members and $35 for non-members.
The charismatic Gbowee began pushing for change as a trauma and rehabilitation volunteer during Liberia’s second civil war. Lasting from 1989 to 2003, the war was sparked by deep-seated anger over economic inequality, natural resources abuse and vicious rivalries between ethnic groups that included descendants of the freed American slaves who founded Liberia in 1847.
At the conflict’s center was Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord who served as Liberian president until being forced into exile in 2003, thanks in large part to Gbowee’s leadership efforts. Last month, a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, convicted Taylor of 11 counts of war crimes including acts of terrorism, murder and rape for aiding Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels wage a terror campaign in Sierra Leone and Liberia that claimed 120,000 lives from 1991–2001. It was the world court’s first judgment against a former head of state since the World War II Nuremberg trials. Sentencing for Taylor, who has pleaded innocent, is scheduled for May 30.
“Leymah represents a new movement of women in the world starting — and achieving — grassroots movements for peace, justice and human rights,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis. “In acts that were selfless and courageous in the face of terrible brutality, she led a group of women to help throw out a dictator [Taylor] and elect the first female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is weeding out corruption herself.”
Gbowee and Sirleaf are key figures in the award-winning 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which looks at how the brave, visionary women and others risked their lives in demanding peace. Gbowee helped organize and then lead the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Taylor and his rebel warlords and even holding a sex strike to pressure men into action.
Gbowee shares the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Sirleaf and Yemin peace activist Tawakkul Karman. The trail-blazing mother of six lives in Accra, Ghana, where, as executive director of the non-governmental organization Women Peace and Security in Africa, she is leading Liberia’s newly established reconciliation process.
“She is an absolutely brilliant woman who understands the power of people and movements that will not quit,” Davis says. “She is an immovable force.”
For more details, call 214-965-8412 or visit dfwworld.org.
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