How The Matriarchs Of Monrovia Stopped The Mayhem
←Click here to go back to Part V: Diamonds & Guns
Exhausted from war, a unified group of Liberian Muslim and Christian women, both indigenous and elite Americo-Liberians alike, launched a nonviolent campaign for peace and protest against rampant use of rape as a weapon of war that shocked the world.
This ultimately served as a lynchpin in securing a ceasefire in 2003.
Activist Leymah Gbowee helped form the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a united group of Christian and Muslim women who formed the initial movement.
The mounting crowds of women dressed in all-white gathered to pray, sing, and protest at the market where Charles Taylor’s motorcade regularly drove through. As the weeks progressed, as many as 2,500 joined the demonstration, which could be seen from the presidential mansion.
“The men in our society were really not taking a stance, we decided to do a sex strike to kind of propel these silent men into action,” Gbowee told Democracy Now. “We were doing trial and error [until] one Muslim woman said, Let’s do a sex strike.”
Not long after, they secured a meeting with Taylor, who finally agreed to peace talks.
“A lot of the women who protested beside me were victims of rape, maybe once, twice, or three times,” Gbowee told Face2Face Africa. “We all decided we were going to put the brokenness of our bodies out there … [most of the women] had no idea what a non-violence protest was.”
Next, the matriarchs sent a contingent to Sierra Leone to disrupt a meeting of distinguished warlords. They lined the streets of Freetown, held sit-ins in front of hotels where various faction leaders were staying, and engaged in intense “corridor lobbying” campaigns. They hurled their bodies against every entry and exit to the meeting rooms, blockading negotiators from leaving the talks without a resolution.
The story of women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace’s struggle and eventual triumph was highlighted in the 2008 documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
In 2009, Gbowee and her colleagues, Janet Johnson Bryant, Vaiba Flomo, Yatta Moore, and Etty Weah were awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award at the JFK Library in Dorchester, less than an hour away from the Plymouth County House of Correction where Taylor was once housed.
Two years later, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After almost two decades of horrific brutality, the women of Liberia forced warchiefs to the negotiating table without firing a single shot.
Click here to go forward to Part VI: The Hague & The Plague→