We can’t help but notice the irony of recent events in Liberia.
Last Friday, both Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – two women we admire at GBF – were jointly honored as Nobel Laureates with Yemeni Tawakkul Karman for their collective “nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
Seventy-hours later, Liberia geared up for it’s second election since the end of the 2003 civil war. Riding on the coat tails of Gbowee and President Sirleaf’s praises, the election did not disappoint Liberian nationals and the international community that have worked tirelessly to stabilize the republic. In awe, we touched base with family members in Liberia and GBF supporters on the ground. In particular, Dr. Rigo, an advisor to our case study in Lofa reported that “all was well.” Dr. Rigo, a Congolese expatriate general surgeon, works with the International Rescue Committee in Kolahun. He took the 10 hour trek from Kolahun to Monrovia to observe the elections. With confirmations from the ground, we had to be a part of the conversations and victories parties that took place yesterday, online and offline, to celebrate the peaceful voting process.
Although many people and organizations can call this a victory, we believe the real honorable mentions go to the women that have passively and aggressively fought to secure peace in their communities. We invited Leymah Gbowee to the Platinum Health Benefit last year to speak about the power these women have had on the grassroots level and the inevitable bridge between their status and maternal mortality. As both a grassroots organizer, an internationally acclaimed women’s activist, and a self-proclaimed feminist, we couldn’t have thought of a better keynote speaker make this connection. View her address at last year’s benefit here.
The Nobel prize selection committee stated matter-of-factly that, “the world cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” But to pursue these opportunities, their maternal health must be made a priority. Not only do we congratulate the President and Gbowee for leading the way to peace and prosperity in Liberia, but we thank them for illustrating the vast reaching capabilities of a woman and her worth. Through our work we have met many women and girls who could never imagine being more valuable than their birthing and domestic functions. But time and time again, women like Gbowee and President Sirleaf are changing this perspective.