A couple of weeks ago, The UAB Institute for Human Rights hosted Leymah Gbowee, a Novel Peace Prize winner. I had the great privilege of attending this lecture! Instead of talking about her prize and why she received it, she spoke mainly about what brought her to that point. Gbowee grew up in Liberia, a world without equal rights between men and women. She credited a single day which showed her young self the reality of the harsh world around her. Gbowee, a social worker, was coming into a village to do work. She came to stay at one of the villagers’ houses and was told to make sure that her door was locked; the chief of the village is a known rapist. She met the rest of the women in the village and saw, instead of women, broken humans who had been disrespected, raped, and beaten to the ground. This utter injustice was made worse by the fact that no one did anything about it. So Gbowee did something unprecedented in Liberia: she spoke up. Not many people listened at first. She was just a crazy woman going against what had always been. However, a few perked up their ears; a few realized that things did not have to be this way. The Woman of Liberia Mass Action started with 7 women, determined and unstoppable. They went on to have over a thousand women peacefully protesting, advocating for their own rights. They also spoke on behalf of the entire country when trying to stop the fighting ravaging their country and beyond with the philosophy that peace can never be reached through violence. They stopped a 14-year civil war and brought the first female head of state to power.
This is really one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. It sounds nearly impossible, but alas, seven small voices grew louder and louder, and, eventually, everyone had no choice other than to listen. The sheer courage it must have taken to speak out against the overwhelming odds is unimaginable, and I think that is the main take-away from Gbowee’s lecture. To speak. To stand up for your beliefs. To take thirty seconds of pure courage and open your mouth. For people so far outnumbered to have accomplished so much peacefully just goes to show that it is not about your standing, your money, or numbers. All you need is an unbreakable voice, determination, and spirit. Gbowee said, “Sincere words go farther than any bullet ever could,” and I wholly agree.
This blog is the collective voice of every person involved in the Global Initiative. Just as the globe hosts billions of disparate voices, we hope this space will embody and embrace the same diversity.