Heritage (Monrovia)

19 February 2013

Liberia: Laureate Gbowee - Liberia Has Serious Leadership Gap

Photo: Leymah Gbowee
Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee.

Liberian Nobel Laureate, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, has asserted that there exists in her homeland Liberia, what she calls serious leadership gap between women and men. Laureate Gbowee, in a recent joint statement issued along with the Belgium based university, KU Leuven, stated: "In times of war, women show how strong they are time and again, even though they are often war's main victims.

But when it comes to leadership, we have a serious gap in Liberia," adding that Liberia needs female leaders who must walk alongside men in the country.

In 2011, Madam Gbowee emerged joint Nobel Peace Prize winner with fellow Liberian, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Yemeni Peace activist, Tawakkul Karman, for what the Norwegian Nobel Committee called an honor "for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

She was instrumental in the formation of the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, an alliance of Christian and Muslim women, in public protest during Liberia's turbulent times. She served as the group's leader during the war days in her native land-Liberia. Currently, through her organization, the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, the Nobel Laureate trains and empowers women in Africa to bring peace to their own countries.

"Women must have an institutional voice and must occupy key roles. And not just to keep the peace and bring about reconciliation. We need women to play a role in every area of society. You can't eat peace," said Laureate Gbowee.

The Liberian Nobel Laureate, who averred that "We want to empower young women so that they can go on to empower and inspire others," is working concertedly with the KU Leuven University to prepare young women in West Africa for meaningful roles in their respective countries.

Said Laureate Gbowee: "In some regions in Liberia, not a single young woman receives a secondary school diploma in a given school year. Often it is tradition and religion that stand in the way but so too do poverty and the total erosion of the norms and institutions that should be protecting their rights - the result of fourteen years of civil war."

She added, "For me, receiving an education is a fundamental right of every woman, so that she can take care of herself and, eventually, her family, stating that: "If you empower a young woman, you empower a whole community. And Liberia needs female leaders. We must walk alongside men."

Meanwhile, Laureate Gbowee and the KU Leuven University are shortly expected to inaugurate the Leymah Gbowee Scholarship Fund for Leadership for African Women at the 'Female Leadership as Cornerstone for Sustainable Development' symposium in Belgium.

The goal of the Leymah Gbowee Scholarship Fund for Leadership for African Women is to provide scholarships for African women to be initially drawn from West African countries like Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria to enable them study at West-African universities at bachelor degree level, and to continue their studies at Master's level at KU Leuven University.

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