In the opening moments of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, the second part of Abigail Disney’s PBS series Women, War & Peace, peace activist and social worker Leymah Gbowee breaks down the impact the war in Liberia has had on her family, remarking, “My children had been hungry and afraid their entire lives.”
In a film full of remarkable statements, this one struck me as being particularly poignant. The film chronicles the work of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. Organized by Gbowee, this movement brought together thousands of women from across religions to petition for change and an end to war. It worked. Not only is the movement credited with ending the Second Liberian Civil War, it led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president of Liberia, the first female head of state in Africa.
Gbowee, Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in peace-building and women’s rights advocacy.
At a breakfast earlier this week, I had a chance to ask Gbowee some questions about her journey, the importance of technology and the impact the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement has had on younger generations.
In the western world, we often take for granted the ubiquitous nature of connectivity and technology. In Liberia, activists like Gbowee had to get the word out to other women via radio and word of mouth.
The biggest limitation right now for women in areas like Africa and other parts of the developing world is the lack of access to technology. Beyond just not having the technical resources, women in these countries also don’t have education or experience using these devices.
Gbowee said that those of us in the western world — and she made a point to say that this has to go beyond the U.S. — need to look at investing in places without technology. The first step is assessing the needs, the existing setups and the goals in each area.
Setting a Better Example for Young Women
Gbowee also expressed to me the importance that those of us — especially women — who do have access to technology are using that technology responsibly.
Setting a good example for women all over the world and not simply “parading themselves over YouTube” is a good start. The more young girls in the developed world can embrace the positive, the better shot media as a whole has at “reversing the trend of negative portrayals of women.”
She went on to say that these sorts of positive influences could empower women in a whole new way.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell airs on PBS at 10:00pm tonight.
Watch Life After the Nobel: An Interview with Leymah Gbowee on PBS. See more from Women War and Peace.
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