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Tue, 02.01.1972

Leymah Gbowee, Activist born.

Leymah Gbowee

*Leymah Gbowee was born on this date in 1972. She is a Black Liberian peace activist and administrator.

Leymah Roberta Gbowee was born in central Liberia. At the age of 17, she was living with her parents and two of her three sisters in Monrovia when the First Liberian Civil War erupted in 1989 until 1996. As the war subsided, she learned about a program run by UNICEF. She did a three-month training, which led her to be aware of her abuse at the hands of the father of her two young children, son Joshua "Nuku" and daughter Amber.

Searching for peace and sustenance for her family, Gbowee followed her partner to Ghana, where she and her growing family lived as virtually homeless refugees and almost starved. She fled with her three children back to the chaos of Liberia, where her parents and other family members still lived. In 1998, to gain admission to an associate of the arts degree program in social work at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences.

Gbowee became a volunteer within a program of the Lutheran Church in Liberia operating out of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Monrovia, where her mother was a women's leader, and Gbowee had passed her teenage years. It was called the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (THRP), and it marked the beginning of her journey toward being a peace activist. The THRP's offices were new, but the program had a history. Liberia's churches have been active in peace efforts since the civil war started. In 1991, Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, teachers, and health workers joined the Christian Health Association of Liberia to try to repair the psychic and social damage left by the war.

She studied and worked her way toward her associate of art degree, conferred in 2001, while applying her training in trauma healing and reconciliation to try to rehabilitate some of the ex-child soldiers of Charles Taylor's army. Gbowee graduated with a Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation (2007) from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She also received a Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding certificate from the United Nations Institute for Training, the Healing Victims of War Trauma Center in Cameroon, and Non-Violent Peace Education in Liberia. Gbowee is the founder and president of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, founded in 2012 and based in Monrovia, which provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women, and the youth in Liberia.

In addition, Gbowee is the former executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, which builds relationships across the West African sub-region to support women's capacity to prevent, avert, and end conflicts. She is a founding member and former coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Her story was told in the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, the memoir Mighty Be Our Powers, and lectures and discussions with groups large and small. She also served as the commissioner-designate for the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For the 2013–2015 academic years, she was a Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice at Barnard College of Columbia University.

In 2013, she became an Oxfam Global Ambassador. In 2016, Gbowee spoke at a protest march organized by Women Wage Peace, a political grassroots group working to advance a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. As of April 2017, Gbowee is also Executive Director of the Women of Peace and Security Program at AC4, Earth Institute, Columbia University. Gbowee is also a contributor at The Daily Beast.

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